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, December 9, 2010

Grasping, clinging and suffering: Still making my way through those kinds of days

Some days I’m overwhelmed with self-pity. This is what that looks like (indented so it’s skip-able):
I have swum with the swans. I am surrounded by people who are at the tops of all kinds of ladders in life. What is it about me that I can start at the same place as all these people, and end up in Loserville?

I’m basically a glorified assistant right now. And it feels like time is running out for me to achieve any level of success in any area.

What am I lacking that others possess? What is it about me that I can’t see that has me making almost nothing out of the education, opportunities and abilities I have? What am I missing about myself that has me end up as a failure? Married to an addict who is 100 pounds overweight and has had sex with numerous prostitutes during our marriage? Wasn’t my life supposed to be better than this?

I expected great things out of my self, assumed, almost, that my life would be amazing and that I’d accomplish great things. And others have always seemed to assume that about me as well.

I feel painfully bloated and aching with loss. Loss of what might have been.

I’m terrified that instead of being some kind of clay that I can shape into a magnificent work of art, I’m just mud.

These feelings of being less-than exist as a painful knot in my stomach and in my heart. And looking at how pathetic all this is, I feel worse.

Have I wasted my life?
That’s an ugly, embarrassing side of me. The way I sometimes deal with the pain that still lingers. Not something I’m happy to admit. I want to justify it. I’m sure I could. But what good would that do me?

I told a friend I’m feeling like I’m going through a mid-life crisis.

“Compare equals despair! You’re too young for this navel-gazing,” he said. “Don’t think so much, don’t analyze so much. Just DO!”

“Ask yourself every day: Is what I’m doing serving me?” he continued. “If not, do something different.”

And he’s right.

But how do I balance experiencing my pain, grief, anger, etc. with living and acting in the present moment? Where’s the line between having and acknowledging feelings, and getting caught in clinging and grasping? Because I think sometimes I go right to the processing part and skip the feeling part. And maybe that’s why I’m still having a lot of resentment and sadness 3 ½ years later, even after all the therapy, groups and books.

The ongoing lesson seems to be not to run from life’s difficulties, but to stay in the muck if that’s where I am, and be present to life. To feel, observe myself feeling, learn from what I see, and take action accordingly. To understand that my experience of life does not have to define me.

Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard said in a recent article, “Happiness is a way of being, not a sensation.” Ahhh, yes. Deep breath. A ray of light to guide me out of the darkness and confusion in which I’ve been wrapping myself.

The other day, somewhere amidst my extended play version of sadness and anxiety, these words came into my head: “Don't forget who you are.”

At first I thought it meant, “Who do you think you are?”

I’ve heard that before.

But then I realized it could have other meanings.

If I think about my life in the scale of time and the Universe, I become nothing and nobody, just like everyone else.

And the freedom and peace that can come with that perspective.

The feeling that comes from understanding myself, even for a fleeting moment, as That which is everything and everybody.

Don’t forget who you are.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mouths of babes

I'm getting ready to go out to see Husband doing a gig with his band.

It's already been a stressful night and I'm...tense.

Son comes into the bathroom where I'm applying glitter to my eyes.

"I love you mom."

I get a big hug.

"I love you too!"

"But I wish you could get into the Christmas spirit."

My son is my greatest blessing.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

On being receptive to truth

"The trouble with the world," said the Master with a sigh, "is that human beings refuse to grow up."

"When can a person be said to have grown up?" asked a disciple.

"On the day he does not need to be lied to about anything."

Anthony de Mello

When I read this, I realized that one of the things I have been learning about is my ability to be with difficult truths.

I still have moments, stretches of time even, when I wish for that bliss I had when I was living inside lies. I often wonder if I'll ever be able to rid myself completely of that longing.

But I have also come to know with a certainty I never had before that part of myself that cannot be shattered.

There is nothing that can be revealed to me that can stop the gentle, lapping quiet of a clear dawn over Puget Sound. Nothing that can lift the smell of the ocean from a coastal breeze, or silence the rhythmic caress of the waves on the shore. No truth can take from me the beauty, joy and peace that exist in each moment if only I am willing to be open to them, even in times of great sadness or pain.

I feel there is nothing I need to be protected from, because I've experienced the peace that comes from allowing for the ever-changing nature of all things, and from letting go of wanting the past to be different and the future to be a certain way. I try to remember to remind myself of this when I need comfort. When it feels difficult to do this, I pray:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace." - from the Serenity Prayer

"I am surrendering moment by moment to whatever is happening in this very instant of time. With precision and gentleness, I surrender my cherished ways of regarding myself and others, my cherished ways of holding it all together, my cherished ways of blocking bodhichitta. I do this again and again over many challenging and inspiring years, and in the process develop an appetite for groundlessness." - Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare You

This is a different version of "I can take it" than I used to hold before - that feeling of power that comes with hardening and shutting down. This is the peace beyond understanding that comes with softening and opening myself up, with willingness and faith, to whatever is so in a moment.

Because I'm human, and probably more because all things change, sometimes I can do this and sometimes I can't. When I can't, I look for the moment when I'm ready to try again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How far I've come

Last night I was looking at some phrases I've kept on a piece of paper beside the bed to remind me about what I've learned from discovering Husband's sex addiction.
  • I can find peace and freedom in surrender and gratitude
  • I'm powerless. Just admit it and surrender (over and over and over again)
  • One day at a time.
  • My most important relationship is with my higher power, which I am an expression of
  • My most important actions are to use my life and my abilities to be of service as an expression of love, compassion and non-duality, and to celebrate everything I have.
  • If I listen for it I will always hear the voice of higher power.
  • Pain, fear and all kinds of adversity are opportunity. I can allow both the good and the bad to be gifts.
  • What am I resisting?
  • I can always choose the most empowering context.
  • Surrendering to the moment at hand is usually the most powerful response.
  • Have fun!
  • If I forget all of this, remembering is the next part of my journey
As I looked at that list, I realized how much of this has become who I am. I don't need this piece of paper as much as I used to, because much of what I've learned has become fundamentally integrated into my approach to the world.

It made me happy to realize that I've really grown and changed in some very potent ways.

I'm proud of myself, because it wasn't an easy road, and it could have gone many different ways.

I'm still growing and developing, but now I have these new tools that have become part of me that make me stronger in the world. Stronger for myself.

There have been a lot of challenging things happening in my life lately. An unanticipated hysterectomy, discovering Husband had been looking at Sports Illustrated swimsuit models online again, the loss of my 14 year-old dog to cancer, the loss of a business partnership, job interviews for big jobs, and falling behind on the mortgage.

Through all of this, I've used the new tools I've learned - turning things over to higher power, new levels of confidence, speaking up for myself without worrying about being "reasonable," operating as if I deserve all good things that come to me, surrendering, praying, listening for higher power, choosing a context that empowers me, and not running from fear, pain or adversity...

I can feel my own strength in ways I never have before. I can feel a relationship with myself that I never had before.

I feel ready for the world, ready for any challenge, ready to make the most of every opportunity. All this is new, and thanks to the work I've done.

It's been worth it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What to do with the things I can't change

When I met Husband in 1988, Mom and I were renting an apartment together. After Husband and I became a couple, he moved in with us and we three have lived together ever since, through 22 years, 2 more apartments and a house.

If Husband is my greatest teacher in the spiritual sense, my mother is his. This translates into a very difficult relationship between them. Not very pleasant for me, but, especially over the last 3 years, I've tried to stay out of it.

Husband had told me that he felt trapped, because he knows I'd never be able to ask my mom to move out. I empathize with him, but he's right. It's a cost to me to have her here, but the cost to me of asking her to leave would be greater. And Husband has been compassionate in not asking me to make that choice. But it's important to him that I know how stressful it is for him, that I know his feelings.

The other day as I listened to Husband complain about mom, I could see clearly how he could relieve a lot of the pressure himself.

My mother isn't malicious. At her worst she's passive aggressive, but many times she's just doing her codependent best to be helpful. Mom doesn't have a good set of tools for self-expression, and she's not aware of what an absolutist she is. She rejects anything that starts to feel like an authority figure (even her own decisions) and frequently undermines us as parents by siding with my son on subjects such as bedtime, consumption of sweets and treats, second helpings, etc... She generally focuses on the worst that could possibly happen. And she is very self-righteous, while at the same time vehemently declaring her disdain for self-righteous people. In short, mom lacks self-awareness on many levels. But she tries to be helpful, and she does the best she can. (I'm really trying to cultivate compassion in my relationship with her, to let go of what I think she should be and appreciate the best of who she is. I have varying degrees of success.)

If one gets frustrated with a cat for meowing instead of mooing, who is causing the problem?

I understand many of Husband's problems with my mother. I share some of them, and I also have my own. But something I know that both Husband and I recognize is that there is little if any chance that the things that bother us about mom will change. For all intents and purposes, my mother is an immobile object.

As I listen to his complaints, I see all the things he could do from his own side to alleviate his suffering - for example, not taking her behavior personally, not expecting her to put our son to bed on time when she babysits, not getting upset when she draws our attention to the latest child kidnapping or tragic death, etc. (I don't tell him any of this, of course, because thanks to therapy I'm trying to practice listening without offering solutions.)

"It's like there's this thing in my life that I really, really wish wasn't there, but there's nothing I can do about it," he said. "You know what I mean?"

I felt like a light switch flipped on in my brain.

"Yes! Yes I do!" I said to both of us. "I know exactly what you're talking about."

I realized in that moment that this was how Husband could begin to understand how I feel about his lies and infidelity.

And in the next moment I began to wonder if all the clarity I had about how he could alleviate his own suffering could be applied to me when something triggers me into thinking about the past, or when I have uninvited thoughts and images come into my head.

Husband patted my leg. "I know you do," he said. "I know what you're talking about."

So I've been thinking it through. When there is something in my path that is beyond my control, the thing I can do is decide how I respond. I can get angry with the cat or feel hurt because it doesn't moo, I can feel disrespected when I ask the cat to moo and it meows, or I can say "That is a cat, and it meows." In other words, here is something that I don't have the power to change, and there is nothing for me to gain by wishing it to be anything other that what it is.

Or very specifically, the events of my past are what they are. Triggers and invasive thoughts are an opportunity for me to practice bringing myself back into the present moment, where I do have the power to have an impact.

What is going on in the present moment? Is Husband treating me the way I want and need to be treated? Is something bothering me that I need to address or express?

If things are good in the present moment, I can take a deep breath, surrender to the past that I have that will never be any other way, and enjoy the happiness of the present moment.

I think if one wants to try to change something that can't be changed (like the past) or that doesn't think it needs to be changed (like my mom) one must consider whether the cost of trying to change that thing (or wishing one could) is worth it, or if there is a more productive action that could be taken. I think there is a lot of truth to the saying "What you resist persists."

The trick is to figure out how to grow so that I'm not stopped by immobile objects in my path. Maybe it's finding compassion, maybe it's having a difficult conversation, maybe it's surrendering to my lack of control over something, or maybe it's something else.

I believe it's possible to progress without resisting that which I have no power to change.

It was a nice opening for me. I could feel the space created by seeing this parallel between Husband's situation and my own, and I could feel the peace that came with my willingness to surrender.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Esteemable act for this week

This has been a big week. I had a planned hysterectomy on Monday to solve a problem of severe bleeding due to fibroids. And Tuesday Husband got some big news that equals a big step forward with his project. So the time for esteemable acts is now, because I can feel the sea of self-doubt churning.

At 46 my chances of bearing a healthy child were questionable at best, but now it's a definite no. As the date for the operation drew near I was very busy with work, so didn't have time to dwell on the sadness that came up from time to time. Which was a good thing I think. (And thankfully I've been able to talk to Husband, close friends and my therapist about it.)

We both realized we wanted another child almost the moment our son was born, but it didn't work out that way. We never went to extreme measures, I had one miscarriage at 15 weeks when I was 40, and despite lots of ovulation kits and pretty consistent trying, I didn't get pregnant. Even after I found out about Husband's sex addiction, I diligently kept going to the acupuncturist for fertility treatments, but I think I was under too much stress to get pregnant for the next couple years. Then Husband had medical issues of his own that made sex challenging. And then at the beginning of this year I had the period that wouldn't stop. I thought I was miscarrying because we'd been trying and my period was late, but after a month I ended up in the hospital with dangerously low hemoglobin levels. I was, as usual, busy with work and attributed my shortness of breath and exhaustion to allergies and not enough sleep. But no, actually I was slowly bleeding do death. (Kind of dramatic, but not an exaggeration.) The fact that it took me so long to notice brought up issues that I'm addressing. But that's not what this is about.

What this is about is Who am I if I'm no longer the wife who can bear children? I'm no longer young, I'm no longer in possession of a uterus, I'm not thin, I don't look like a model, I'm not the wide-eyed adoring girl he met 22 years ago, I'm not, I'm not, I'm not...blah blah blah...Who am I if I'm not an object of attraction to Husband?

I need to answer that question more than ever now, so it feels good to be working on it.

I've been thinking about my esteemable acts as things that I can do, actions that I can take without depending on someone else, actions that leave me with a sense of personal accomplishment, with the feeling that I'm doing what I was put on earth to do, with the feeling that if I died today, I'd have been doing something with my life that was meaningful to me and fulfilling in the moment.

All big things start with small steps, so the small steps I took this week all had to do with self-care. I took the week off of work and have been focusing on resting, spending time with my family, and reading two books: The 4-Hour Workweek, which focuses on freeing up more time; and Zen and the Art of Making a Living, which focuses on "creative career design."

Oddly, taking this kind of time for myself feels indulgent, so I'm counting it as an esteemable act, because I'm declaring by my actions that I am worthy of the time to consider and plan my future, that I don't have to be working every moment to be worthy and valuable - that I can declare my value and not have to prove it by working when I should be resting.

Like I said, it's a baby step.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Being loved used to be enough

Went to see my therapist today. I've been feeling better, not so heavy and sad, but I know I still have work to do on my self esteem issues so I was looking forward to getting back to it.

We talked about my anxiety over the prospect of Husband's success, and my fear that he'll get all caught up in his success and meanwhile I'll disappear. And that when he has success, that will make him attractive to hot young women who will look at him adoringly and giggle and make him feel smart and cool and sexy. My crazy head says to me, "If someone can have something better, then why wouldn't they want that? And what do I have to offer that would trump a hot young body, a gorgeous face and pie-eyed admiration? Isn't that much more attractive to a man than a 46 year old, nice looking but chunky woman who is sometimes distant, sometimes sad, and highly suspicious of you?"

One of my close girlfriends who knows what has happened between Husband and me told me that her therapist suggested doing "esteemable acts" as a way to build self esteem. I've been putting off thinking about what these could be for me because I've been so busy with work. (I also put of going to the doctor because of work earlier this year and ended up in the hospital with dangerously low hemoglobin levels because I was slowly bleeding to death, so I guess I don't learn, do I? I'm fully recovered now, and none the wiser apparently.) But I don't want to go along in this same self-esteemless rut and wake up in 5 years to see I've made no progress.

I also talked with my therapist about my sadness over losing the relationship I thought I had with Husband. I don't have any big accomplishments in life. I haven't climbed the Seven Sisters, or become a successful artist, or written a book, or traveled the world, or discovered anything, or cured anything, or become an expert in my field. Nor do I have the material trappings of success: no VP title, no big salary, no fancy car or house, no fantastic wardrobe. Before these things didn't bother me, because I always came back to my relationship. That was what I had. That was what was really important in life, and there I was successful. All that other stuff was icing on the cake - great if it came along, fine if it didn't. I had a loving partnership that was solid and true.

And then I didn't. Instead I had a husband who'd had sex with dozens of other women while we were married, spent tens of thousands of dollars on those prostitutes, and lied to me about all of it, even making me feel wrong and bitchy and crazy when I ever asked about things that I thought were questionable - odd charges on the credit card, for example (which I later realized were for subscriptions to prostitute review and reservation sites.) And I had the pain of feeling like I'd become forgettable to the person I thought loved me most in the world.

So now sometimes I feel I don't have anything. Not the material spoils, not the outward gains, and most important, not the trusted partnership that I valued above all else. I do have my amazing son, but I have to be careful to remember that relationship is ultimately about letting go. He's not my life partner. If he's healthy and if we have a healthy relationship, he'll be separating, not hanging around as I get to be a little old lady the way I envisioned Husband would.

Thinking about it, I realized I ended up in this position because I think that for me, being loved was enough. As long as I knew I was loved, other personal goals and desires became secondary. What could be more important that spending time with the person you love most in the world? Not that I gave up my dreams and interests. I just didn't pursue success or any particular accomplishment, didn't try to climb ladders and get ahead. I had my own life that was busy and full and didn't revolve around Husband. But I didn't have a strong agenda for myself. I didn't need one. I felt deeply loved, and that was enough. I didn't long for anything else.

But now I see that I stopped building my own identity out in the world. I wasn't an appendage to husband at all. But I stopped growing and shaping myself outside of my happy little world of family and close friends.

The best metaphor I can think of is boats. We weren't two boats anchored side by side. We were two boats, but he was the one with the anchor (at least that's how it felt) and I was tied to him with no anchor of my own.

So it's time to begin with esteemable acts, so that I don't disappear from the world if Husband forgets about me. (Not that I really think he will anymore, but the fear of that is hard to get past.) Time to define who I want to be in the world, what I want to do, and take action on those things. That doesn't have to take anything away from my relationship with Husband. And it will help me develop a relationship to myself. I will create my own anchor.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Husband's success brings up fear and anxiety

Husband has spent the better part of the past year working on a big project. The project is now done, and he's handed it over to people who can possibly make something bigger out of it and it's getting good response.

I should be happy. We've been living on just my income so he could do this project. He's also been the primary caregiver for Son during this time - taking him to school, picking him up, taking him to playdates and swimming lessons, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner. So for that I'm thankful, although maybe somewhat resentful as well, because when I took time off to pursue a personal project he started hounding me to get a job after 4 months, just as my efforts were starting to come to fruition. I'd be pretty happy pursuing my creative projects and taking care of Son, too.

But I've been choosing to support him because ultimately his success could benefit both of us, so I need to let go of that resentment. Working on that.

My character defects aside, thinking about Husband's potential success has me riddled with fear and anxiety. The crazy thoughts going through my head (in no particular order:)

1. Husband will become infatuated with his own success, and I will no longer be needed or important. (Husband enjoyed success and admiration before I found out about his sex addiction, and he rarely made me feel secondary, so I don't know why I'm afraid of this. Maybe it's related to #2...)

2. I feel like I have nothing to offer. I'm having trouble feeling emotionally connected. I have fear, anger and resentment about the past. I feel like damaged, unpleasant goods. Why would anybody with a choice pick me if they have other attractive, interested women (not hard to find in my hometown) hanging around and singing their praises.

2b. I have no great accomplishments of my own. I'm working as an underpaid consultant. My professional peers have passed by me in titles and salary. I've produced no great works of art or business deals or social change. I'm not known for anything special. I have talents that give me joy, but little or no opportunity to use them. I'm nice. The one thing I've been working hard at all my life. Great.

Right now I feel like a victim. I know that's totally disempowering. But there are things he took from me that I'll never get back, and I'm sad and angry about those things. I never had any choice in the matter. By the time I found out about it, those things were long gone.

I lost 19 years of being with someone who always had my back and who I could trust without doubt. I lost the ability to trust that I'd built up over all those years. I lost the self-confidence I'd grown out of feeling like I was truly enough for him. I lost my most intimate relationship which has now been replaced by my best attempt at it. I won't ever be able to look at him without knowing that he made the choice to lie to me and to have sex with all those other women.

Is that part of staying with someone who has betrayed you? Even if you do all the recovery and the therapy and read all the books and go to church and get all the spiritual the pain of being lied to always going to be there?

Over and over again the feeling/thought/image that goes through my head is that I disappeared. I didn't exist for him. Why was it so easy to forget about me? Why was it so simple to lie to me? Why did I not matter enough for the truth?

The answer that will always have to be good enough is that Husband was sick. He was a sex addict. He wasn't acting rationally.

So now that he's on the path to healing and recovery, becoming more and more whole and complete, I'm here trying to deal with the discontinuity, the kind of mind-fuck turn my life has taken. The thing that pisses me off is that he always had the full picture. He always knew what was going on. He doesn't have to deal with the crazy making feelings and thoughts that come with finding out you thought you had one life when you really had another.

I've been exercising, and that helps I think, but I'm still struggling with the anxiety and fear. Maybe it's exacerbated by the fact that it's June - the month I discovered it all. But I was fine on June 1. I don't know...I don't know what the source of this is. All I know is that right now I feel anxious, twitchy, nauseous, and really sad.

I'm talking to another SAnon tonight, and I highlighted all the people in my group who are also staying with their SA partners. I have to pick up the phone.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ebb and flow

The heaviness is lifting. Not gone, but not crushing either.

I need to remember when I get down like this...things change.

But the past doesn't change. And therein lies my struggle. When it comes down to it, I still grieve what I lost, and I still wish for a different June 1st, 2007.

The self-loathing part of myself says I should be past this by now. But the healthy part of myself, which is much stronger from these past 3 years, knows that self-criticism will get me nowhere. I've been doing it for 45 years, and I can see that. Maybe that self-loathing is my addiction. I wonder what would happen if I treat it that way. Will have to think that through and see if it applies.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ask me no questions

Like MamaMPJ says, its the lies.

I've been down lately, and I've realized that part of it is I'm still not over being lied to.

Trust is not an easy thing to build or rebuild. I believe it's possible. But rebuilding 19 years of trust is going to take time I suppose.

And it's not that I don't trust him now. It's that I'm so angry at him for lying that I don't know if I'll ever get over it.

And I know I'll have to find a way if I want to stay in my relationship. Which I do.

He's a good man, a better man now.

But I can think of few things worse you can do to someone than betray their trust.

I've also been wrestling with self esteem issues that have been exacerbated by this betrayal. My great unspoken fear is that when it comes down to it I'm not good enough. Knowing that husband had sex with prostitutes he picked out of an online catalogue who were 15 - 20 years younger than me solidifies these self-doubts in my crazy head. I know these fears are mine to overcome, but they loom larger after all of this.

And after realizing that my business partner really regards me as an employee, I'm struggling with self worth issues around that, too. We've been splitting the income from our work (with him getting 10% off the top for business expenses and 20% more than me of the remaining share.) Last week he told me that I'm making more than I should be given my contribution to the business. Not in those exact words, but very close. Another fear, the fear of accidentally overvaluing myself and then being found out, reinforced. I disagree with him, but I have all those feelings of not wanting to cause conflict, wanting to be reasonable, and there's also the fact that he's incredible at what he does (strategy and business development) and my role (account director) supports that. But it hurts to be told you're not worth what you're being paid. It probably hurts even if it's true, which in my case it isn't.

I'm done with this kind of partnership. I'm looking for a job.

So I'm an unworthy fraud this week. I skipped my 12-step meeting (bad idea) but all I wanted to do was go to bed. Sometimes I wonder if the trauma of discovering Husband's addiction has caused me to slump into depressions. I don't remember having these lows before. I wonder if medication would help, but I don't want to take medication.

Right now I feel alone and isolated and confused. I don't know why I feel disconnected and joyless, but I do. "Fake it 'til you make it" the saying goes. But I don't want to fake it. I want to find it. I want to find the good, find the joy. But it feels like there are too many motions to go through, and not enough time to just be present. Are these the problems of the over fed, over examined, and over privileged?

Could this be an opportunity to surrender to whatever it is that I am? Oh, yay!

Where did all this self loathing come from? I really wish I knew. Because then I could grab the end of that thread and untangle it from the rest of my life.

I wish you get get self esteem from eating ice cream.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Triggered by Get Him to the Greek?

I usually like movies like this because I have the sense of humor of a 13 year old boy. Slapstick, poop jokes - funny stuff to me. But there is a scene of the guys in a Las Vegas strip club and as soon as that came onto the screen I got nauseous and my heart started racing. I haven't really seen lap dancing before, although I've imagined it since learning that Husband received this service regularly throughout our marriage, and even before.

Seeing a room full of barely clothed women mingling and rubbing up against men as other women swiveled around poles while groups of men gawked and talked instantly brought images of Husband in that situation into my mind. And they've been hard to shake. I went through our computer history last night and checked his email for anything suspicious - found nothing.

But it really repulses me that he participated in this. I think some of my current lack of interest in sex has to do with my being unable to separate the person in him that can objectify women that way from the person he is in our relationship. (I know that repulsive objectifier is still in there with the person I knew. Unfortunately I wasn't aware of that aspect of him for the first 19 years of our relationship.) I've never felt objectified by him. But for a long time now I get a queasy feeling when I think of doing any type of fantasy activity (dressing up in sexy lingerie for example) and I think that's because it feels like it would be part of that ugly fantasy world that also included lap dances and prostitutes.

I wish I had the opportunity to grow and change without having to think about our relationship at the same time. I know sex is part of a healthy relationship, and we've had good sex off and on since his sex addiction became known to me. But a lot of times I just have too much going on in my head to be present. And if I'm not present - well that's just not the kind of sex I want to have with anyone. I'd rather just not. But I know for him my lack of interest in sex feels like rejection. So I worry. Will this perceived rejection cause him to give up on our relationship? Because I'm not ready to do that. But I'm not ready to be vulnerable either.

I'm in a little bit of a freak-out still, although I know I have the tools to keep this from spiraling out of control. But I also feel that I have a lot of work to do to get some things out that are still inside me. Anger, fear, grief. Things that are keeping me from being present.

I don't know how to access these things. A friend from my recovery group is going to a funeral and I said to her that she should really take the opportunity to grieve, not just the loss of the one who passed, but other losses as well, because we get so few opportunities to do that. I think I was speaking in part to myself. I have this image of scraping out from inside me the things I've been unable to express, like scraping out the inside of a pumpkin, so I don't get snagged by the past over and over again, so I can authentically both acknowledge what has happened and internalize that this is a new and different moment. So I can feel peace, instead of fear and anxiety.

I don't feel that peace now. Just queasy, anxious and closed off. I can intellectualize myself back to peace using the tools I have, but I want to use my tools to work through this, not to fly above it. I want to stay with these feelings instead of going to my "enlightened" place about why I don't have to have them. Maybe these feelings and the resulting conversations will drag me through what is here for me to learn so that I can get closer to free.

Friday, June 4, 2010

My year of trusting God

Well, it's 3 days past the 3rd anniversary of my discovery, and I'm starting in on Step 3.

Turn my life and my will over go God.

Wow. Not something I ever imagined I'd consider. Ever.

I'm afraid that means giving up, giving in, being helpless. I know I've endorsed surrender many times, but to surrender my whole self? That just feels wrong.

"It's God's will that I have this job when I really want another job." I don't understand how that sits side by side with creating / causing a job I really want. How do you turn your will over, and still have power in your own life? I don't want to just float along saying, "It must be God's will" as I'm going nowhere fast like a ship without a rudder, a piece of bark spinning helplessly along with the current.

I can't control others and I'm fine with that. But I want to control me! I want to have some kind of say here!

The thought that just flashed across my mind: Maybe it's about taking action and then turning the result over to God. So maybe that's how those things sit side by side. Take action and let the result be what my higher power sets before me as my next catalyst.

I'm thinking maybe I'll make this my Year of Trusting God, kind of like an experiment, and see how it goes.

Frankly, I'm skeptical. I don't know if I can really do this. Ugh! I don't want to turn my will over to anything!

I can tell this is going to require a lot of deep breathing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A useful distinction

I made a useful distinction today that I don't want to forget: Taking responsibility for others lives leads to pain and frustration, while taking responsibility for one's self is liberating and empowering.

Boy, I wish I'd realized that 40 years ago.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How much am I worth?

Recently I had a conversation with my business partner about how much I’m worth. I was calm on the outside, but shaking on the inside, near tears even. I felt like I was being asked to defend the value of my contribution to our business.

I don’t think that was the conversation we were having, but that was the conversation I was hearing. “You’re not valuable, what you bring anybody could bring and the real value here is what I do.” That’s what I heard. And it really cut me. I’ve given a lot to this business, and have worked as a partner, making sacrifices, working long hours for low pay, working on vacations, constantly overdelivering for clients as part of our business development strategy.

We were talking about compensation, and how to split the profits from our business. But, sitting there, I realized why these conversations are so hard for me, and it’s because I have a very hard time justifying my value at all. I think in the past I had less of a struggle with it because I didn’t realize the assumptions I make about the value of my contributions. I was perfectly willing to let anyone and everyone else tell me how much I was worth.

But now that I’m learning that I can define myself and I don’t have to let others define me, I’m terrified of overvaluing myself and having someone “catch” me, and ask “do you honestly think you’re worth that much?”

I’ve seen bad employees, mostly men, fail upward. I’ve seen talentless and ignorant people succeed. What these people all have in common is that they are innately valuable. They believe they are qualified, and therefore the world falls in line.

This innate belief in my own value, my own qualification, doesn’t come naturally to me.

I think this is where action is more important than though and planning. If you put your butt in a seat and write, you’re a writer, and you’re more likely, talented or not, to get published than a brilliant writer who is not writing.

How do I move from being afraid of being discovered as a fraud to someone who does what I want because I want to, and feels confident that my interest and desire are all the qualifications I need?

And the deeper question: Now that I’m beginning to think in terms of defining myself instead of being defined by others, how do I develop confidence in my definition, and the ability to stand up for my own definition of self, so that when that moment comes and someone says to me “do you honestly think you’re worth that much, because I don’t,” I can take that in without being devastated or defensive, and stand my ground?

Friday, May 21, 2010

How do I re-establish intimacy?

I’ve been struggling with this for a long time. And I don’t mean just sex, although that’s part of it.

Finding out that Husband, my best and most trusted friend, had been secretly having sex with prostitutes for years, while also being the guy who would say in a very definitive way that he couldn’t understand infidelity, shifted the world as I knew it. Which, at 43, was unexpected to say the least.

Part of the way I’ve handled being so deeply betrayed is to take the Buddhist perspective (as I understand it) that the only constant in life it that things change. In that context, to expect a human being to be consistent or predictable is to set one’s self up for disappointment at best.

To expect someone to always love you, always have good judgment, always have my best interests at heart…to always be 100% well-adjusted and always have great communication skills, always be 100% aware of their impact on others…to reach a state of perfection and STAY there. Well, that’s living in denial of the One True Constant. (I capitalized those words, not the Buddha.)

As I write, I hear that I’m nothing if not an absolutist. In all fairness to myself, that changes too.

So, my logic continues, the only person you can really count on to secure your well-being is yourself. (Not that we always do this for ourselves, but we always have the option of taking up our own cause; whereas we don’t have any control over whether or not someone else does right by us.)

Since adopting this philosophy I’ve made great effort to be my own advocate and champion. I try to get clarity around what works for me and what doesn’t, and then speak up or steer myself away from getting stuck in the muck or banging my head against unresponsive walls.

The problem is that in my attempt to be fully responsible for myself and not place my well-being in the hands of others, I’ve gotten to the point where I could say again what I said to Husband that hurt him so much when we first started dating: “I don’t need you.”

It may well be that no man is an island, but I’m pretty good at it myself.

But that’s not where I want to be, because that’s not the existence I want. I don’t want to feel separate all my life. I believe humans in their healthiest state are coupling animals. I have no lack of loving relationships in my life, but I want to have an intimate, loving, long-lasting partnership.

So here’s the catch.

How do I develop that when I believe people are unpredictable? (How, when in fact I have hard evidence of this unpredictability?)

Trust seems to be such a big ingredient in intimacy. But I don’t know. Maybe that’s just a line I read in a book somewhere. Maybe you can be intimate without the vulnerability required by trust.

I was wondering today if the intimacy people feel when they are codependent is just not possible without enmeshment. Am I looking for an intensity that simply isn’t available when one practices loving detachment? Or is there a different kind of intimacy that I have yet to experience?

In my favorite quotes on marriage, Rilke said "even between the closest people infinite distances exist..." So is there an equally satisfying intimacy that arises when we lovingly co-exist, and accept the risk of the mystery that each of us is to the other?

Sure sounds nice. But I’m not there yet. And I don’t even know if there’s a there there. So instead I’m a little sad and lonely.

Where is that balance? Where is that place where I’m not defined by Husband, my happiness is not bound to Husband, where I am whole and complete without Husband, and yet I share a deep, intimate connection with Husband and trust him enough to be vulnerable? How can I trust, knowing that people, like all things, are ultimately unpredictable?

Husband may not lie again, but he might drop dead tomorrow. If I allow the deep kind of connection I had with him before, I open myself up to that great loss all over again. How can I be whole and complete and still feel such a great sense of loss? That doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t understand where that sweet spot exists – where a healthy self-reliance overlaps with putting my heart in the hands of an unpredictable human being.

Deep love feels to me like that trust game you play in drama class, where you close your eyes and fall back into the arms of the group on faith that they will catch you. But if the world is unpredictable, how can I let go and trust that someone will be there to catch me?

I know I can pick myself up, but it’s the pain of falling when you had so much faith that I just don’t want to bear again.

Is all this reflection and philosophizing may just be my way of obscuring from myself that I’m just afraid and protecting myself? In the Carnes book I'm reading (which I highly recommend) it talks about how thinking things through can become a tactic for avoiding action.

Maybe the self-reliance I think I’m practicing is just plain old withdrawal and unwillingness to let myself be hurt again. Maybe it’s the same emotional lockdown I went into when I found out my dad was lying to us about running off to seek treatment for terminal illness when I was 12. That was when I decided I’d never need men, and I carried that with me into my relationship with Husband until it was slowly replaced by trust.

A lot of questions and not many answers these days.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tip of the iceberg?

I have a sick feeling that my experience is only part of the tip of a very big iceberg that we face as a very troubled society.

Dan Rather's article in the Huffington Post describes the trafficking of child prostitutes on the west coast.

It's so sad and disturbing, because I see our society getting worse before it gets better because inappropriate sexuality is so accepted in the mainstream.

But all the more reason to speak out, to shine light where there is darkness, misinformation and denial. It's time to start talking about what is HEALTHY rather than what people want to do. Because sometimes what people want to do, (or what they're willing to do) even if it's legal, isn't healthy and we need the tools to be able to make that distinction. Do what one will, fine. But let's have a clearer line about what results in healthy, well adjusted adults who are able to have intimate relationships.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thoughts on how to define God hunger

I've been working on Step 2, and I realized I didn't really know how I would define god hunger. Is it searching for meaning or purpose in life? Searching for answers? Searching for love and safety?

When I think about spirituality, what I get out of that now is strength that comes from faith. Faith that the pain and obstacles that come my way have purpose in my life, that they are opportunities to be with discomfort and fear and to find out where I can go when I don’t run from those or distract my self or numb myself.

What I got from Husband was a sense of safety – a knowledge that no matter what – everything was going to be okay.

So maybe that’s the god hunger – looking for assurance that everything is going to be okay. Somehow this is related to definition of / relationship with self, because as I’ve become healthier, I’ve assumed more and more responsibility for my own well-being, and find that I rely less on others to see that I’m okay.

So perhaps god hunger is that relationship to myself – looking through the lens of non-duality and seeing that I am a wave in the ocean that is divinity – I am the wave, and as a wave I am also the ocean and that I am whole and complete and have everything and am everything because I am not separate from anything. Maybe that's what I’ve been hungering for – to know myself as not separate from all there is, good, bad, known, unknown, not separate from god – so that I can be at peace. Is god hunger simply a hunger for peace and serenity?

What is it that’s missing, what is it that needs to be filled? What is it that fills that void?

People fill the void with tasks, obsessions, pursuits, or numb the pain of that missing with drugs, alcohol and other addictions. Maybe god hunger is the need to feel peaceful and safe no matter what is going on in life. To know that god will protect you, god will heal you, god will redeem you, god will save you, god will love you, and you can do all these things because you are not separate from god. Maybe god hunger is a desire for the power to provide all these things. So is the missing thing power?

Or maybe the missing thing is unconditional love – the love we feel from our parents before we know any different. And perhaps the missing comes when we begin to understand the conditions under which we’re loved.

Loved for being good, loved for being pretty, loved for being smart, loved for being witty, loved for being sharp, loved for being talented, loved for being quiet, loved for being no trouble, loved for being difficult.

But not just loved for being.

And because we are not taught to love ourselves unconditionally we begin to look for that other who will give us the love that was snatched away from us as we became sentient, as we began to define the world, as we began to understand that there was “us” and then there was what was not “us.”

As we began to distinguish ourselves as separate from other things, which we needed to do in order to survive, we lost that knowledge of ourselves as not separate and therefore not deficient, not unworthy, not undeserving, not unlovable.

So here it is. Maybe my God hunger is my search for unconditional love that I am only now beginning to learn to provide for myself.

Thoughts on how to define God hunger

I've been working on Step 2, and I realized I didn't really know how I would define god hunger. Is it searching for meaning or purpose in life? Searching for answers? Searching for love and safety?

When I think about spirituality, what I get out of that now is strength that comes from faith. Faith that the pain and obstacles that come my way have purpose in my life, that they are opportunities to be with discomfort and fear and to find out where I can go when I don’t run from those or distract my self or numb myself.

What I got from Husband was a sense of safety – a knowledge that no matter what – everything was going to be okay. He was the great wing under which I was protected but not oppressed.

So maybe that’s the god hunger – looking for assurance that everything is going to be okay. Somehow this is related to definition of / relationship with self, because as I’ve become healthier, I’ve assumed more and more responsibility for my own well-being, and find that I rely less on others to see that I’m okay.

So perhaps god hunger is that relationship to myself – looking through the lens of non-duality and seeing that I am a wave in the ocean that is divinity – I am the wave, and as a wave I am also the ocean and I am whole and complete and have everything and am everything because I am not separate from anything. Maybe that's what I’ve been hungering for – to know myself as not separate from all there is, good, bad, known, unknown, not separate from god – so that I can be at peace. Is god hunger simply a hunger for peace and serenity?

What is it that’s missing, what is it that needs to be filled? What is it that fills that void?

People fill the void with tasks, obsessions, pursuits, or numb the pain of that missing with drugs, alcohol and other addictions. Maybe god hunger is the need to feel peaceful and safe no matter what is going on in life. To know that god will protect you, god will heal you, god will redeem you, god will save you, god will love you, and you can do all these things because you are not separate from god. Maybe god hunger is a desire for the power to provide all these things. So is the missing thing power?

Or maybe the missing thing is unconditional love – the love we feel from our parents before we know any different. The love that lets us feel safe, peaceful and affirmed in the world. And perhaps the missing comes when we begin to understand the conditions under which we’re loved. And because we don’t learn to love ourselves unconditionally we begin to look for that other that will give us the love that was snatched away from us as we became sentient, as we began to define the world, as we began to distinguish that there was “us” and then there was what was not “us.” As we began to understand ourselves as separate from other things, which we needed to do in order to survive, we lost that knowledge of interbeing. Loved for being good, loved for being pretty, loved for being smart, loved for being witty, loved for being sharp, loved for being talented, loved for being quiet, loved for being no trouble, loved for being difficult. But not just loved for being.

So here it is. Maybe my God hunger is my search for unconditional love that I am only now beginning to learn to provide for myself.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A little input from higher power?

I subscribe to the Tricycle Daily Dharma, and today it had this to say about what is needed in order to challenge "the whole identity of your life:"

"...The strength that's needed is the courage of heart to remain undefended and open, a willingness to touch the ten-thousand joys and the ten-thousand sorrows from our compassion, the deepest place of our being. This is a different kind of fearlessness, which requires as much or more passion and fire."

-Jack Kornfield, "The Sure Hearts Release"

So I guess that's today's input from higher power regarding yesterday's post about my struggle with deep connection and intimacy with Husband.

So the next thing I'm wondering is how to be undefended and open and still maintain healthy boundaries. What is the right balance between those two things?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Digging deeper again

Watching an episode of Lost last night. Jun and Sun were in a sinking sub, and she was pinned in, despite his desperate attempts to rescue her. At one point, she grabbed his head and kissed him deeply, like he was the most beloved thing in her life.

I remember feeling that way. And the thought that crossed my mind in that moment was, “but that’s not real.”

One of the things that has helped me tremendously in processing Husband’s betrayal is taking the perspective that the only constant is impermanence, and because all things change the only thing you can count on to ensure your happiness is yourself. You can’t rely on anyone else, no matter what you think or what they say, or even what they do. Things can change. This too shall pass….whatever it is.

Even relying on yourself can be questionable, because you can also change.

But acting under the assumption that things change has helped me be at peace with human failings. People are unpredictable. A worst-case, they may lie. At best they may die. Either way, not something you can really count on to provide safety, love, or stability.

What I’m thinking though, is that I’ve begun to use this concept of unpredictability as another way to keep myself safe. Without realizing it, I think I’ve become absolutist about it.

Rule: Things change. The only thing predictable is unpredictiblity. Therefore, count only on yourself to ensure your well-being.

Outcome: I am in control of my happiness, and can protect myself 100% from experiencing deep pain and anguish.

I’m suspicious of this. I’m suspicious because I can see that I’m getting a sense of peace from being in control of the situation, armed with this understanding of unpredictability. Once again, I’m trying to prevent myself from being hurt by attempting to make sense of human nature and taking full responsibility for my own happiness and well being.

The problem with this is that it leaves me with an inability to achieve the intimacy that I used to feel with Husband. But not just with him. I can’t imagine ever feeling that connecting and intimate with any other man.

I do feel deeply connected with Son, and we share a pretty unfettered emotional intimacy. I wouldn’t really say I count on him because he’s eight and that doesn’t feel appropriate to me. But I think he feels he can count on me, and we are very close. We talk, argue, hug and kiss, wrestle, play games, hang out, lose our patience with each other, apologize, say I love you, yell, laugh…I try to let everything be there on top of a foundation of unconditional love. Who knows…maybe I’m making a mess of it all…but I’m trying to be a good mother, and I think he feels security and love and consistency and structure, which are the things I want him to be able to count on from me as a parent.

While my ability to feel deeply connected to my child is a bright spot, it doesn’t address the issue of my lack of connection and intimacy with Husband, or my inability to imagine connection and intimacy with any partner.

There are plenty of other examples of people I feel connected to.

I love my mom, but I see her flaws and know how I can count on her and how I can’t, and that ultimately in our relationship I’m responsible for my well-being. And I feel comfortable and satisfied with that.

I love my best girlfriends and I know they love me and I know they would always provide love, support, shelter and anything else I might need in this life should I have to turn to them. That feels right to me, too.

So I don’t have a problem with intimacy and connection in general. It’s only in the area of a partner that I feel all fucked up.

I know I’ve gone through cycles like this before, so I need to go back and read what I’ve written to remind myself and let some of that sink in again and more deeply.

But I also think there are things - pains, fears - that I haven’t addressed. I’m such an avoider, so desperately wanting to understand and move forward because it’s the logical and reasonable thing to do. And it’s what I’ve been trained to do from childhood – exterminate bad feelings. But pain and fear will not go undealt with, no matter how ninja I am with intellectual understanding and processing of things. There is something deeper that has not yet been faced.

I really want to feel that intimacy again. And I really think it’s possible. And I think Husband is a great person to do that with. I just don’t know how to do it on a consistent basis. Sometimes I feel like I get there, but I always seem to retreat to this safe place. It’s comfortable, it makes sense, it mostly works. But it leaves me lonely, too. And sad for what I had, which I now think of as born of delusion.

But what about the possibility that deep love, connectedness and intimacy can exist along side of betrayal and unpredictability? (I know I’ve considered this before, and I can go there intellectually, but my heart/body has not been able to get there.) It would mean opening way up to pain and anguish again. And the pain and anguish I felt 3 years ago is something I just don’t think I want to revisit.

But I think the deep feelings that I miss so much are related to that kind of openness and vulnerability. And if I have to face the fact that I can’t ensure my own happiness 100% of the time, or protect myself 100% from feeling any pain, then I suppose I might as well take that risk for the reward of the deep connection that I miss so much. Knowing what I know now, being who I am now, it would have to look different somehow. But I maybe I would have some relief from the underpinning of sadness that comes from being my own island when it comes to my relationship with Husband.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ready or not...

Husband recently gave me a book he's been using in his therapy group. "I think you'll like it," he said. I just finished reading the introduction, and was completely inspired by the last few sentences of it.

"A whole new level of being present to life can result with recovery. Life is never the same. There is no going back. Consider yourself called." - Recovery Zone by Patrick Carnes

That definitely resonates with my experience.

As I read on, I realized that I have chosen to try to stay with my family, I have chosen to try to stay with my marriage...but I don't know if I've actually chosen to stay with Husband and I think until I make that choice, I won't be able to do some of the deeper healing that I feel is available to me. I think I'm still holding Husband at a distance (not surprising considering that he decimated the world as I knew it, and his actions were the source of deep pain and anguish for me) but that is painful because the intimacy that I want to have is not there.

I do feel a whole new level of being present to life. I do feel that life will never be the same, and that there's no going back. And I do feel called into something greater than I ever imagined. But something is still missing. And I think that missing thing is the intimacy that I can have with Husband now that we're both actively in recovery, and continuing to reap the discoveries made possible by that work and by therapy.

I think that distance is layer of protection, and that layer as well as my realization of it are all part of my process. Nothing to regret, but something to ponder.

How do I achieve that intimacy with someone who feels so threatening?

As always, I think the answer is surrender. Surrender to the possibility of loss and grief and pain, and to the fact that no matter what, I can't protect myself from those things 100%, especially if I want to live my life to the fullest.

I get that, but it's scary. It feels like the hardest miles of a marathon, and I don't know if I'm ready. But it's probably more a matter of finding the willingness to surrender, rather than the readiness.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Getting my ass kicked by opportunity (AFGO)

I'd had a long day yesterday and was pretty exhausted by the time we went out with a group of friends to dinner and a movie. The movie was an action comedy, and I really loved it. But sitting beside Husband watching the awkward teen sex scenes that were supposed to be funny made be a little uncomfortable. The crazy part of my brain couldn't help but wonder if he was finding those scenes hot or arousing. While they may be funny, I don't find sex scenes between people who could be my children sexually arousing. It feels inappropriate, not sexy. But I think Husband's animal brain still responds to this kind of visual stimulation and switches his other faculties to their low-function setting. And of course seared in my memory is his description of one of the prostitutes he had sex with (written for the prostitute review site he frequented) as having the ass of an 18 year old soccer player. Creepy factor aside, not the easiest thing for a 40-something year old woman who's always had body image issues to come to terms with.

As we were walking back to the car after the movie, I glanced across the street and noticed a tall, Jessica Simpson-type blond in a short skirt crossing the street. And I noticed Husband noticing her, too. I see attractive men out in the world every day, but I don't have the automatic response that I think husband has to attractive women. I'm sure there are plenty of biological explanations for this. But when it comes down to it, what I perceive (true or not) pushes my self-doubt buttons.

Now, Husband is a mid-40s, overweight, bespectacled, unemployed guy with thinning hair. Under a certain amount of bravado, he's shy and self-conscious. It's not like he's got hot young women trailing after him waiting to pounce the instant I look the other way. So why does husband's response to other women fill me with dread? Because it confirms my fears that I'm not sufficient. The nagging, absolutist rule I have in my head is that if Husband was satisfied with me, if I was good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, funny enough, talented enough - if I was enough, no other woman could turn his head, no matter how much cleavage she was baring, or how young and hot she looked.

Why do I care if Husband thinks I'm good enough? I don't think it's him that I'm worried about. I think I'm afraid I'll confirm definitively that, as I've suspected all along, I'm not good enough. Not just not-good-enough for Husband, but Not Good Enough, period. Like a fact, a truth, an indisputable law of nature.

I don't measure up and when the real opportunity for something better comes along I'll be discarded.

As a matter of fact, when I was raking through this muck this morning, I was actually wondering (again) if Husband had settled for me because he got me. If he so lacked the confidence to go out and get what he really wanted (a hot blond) that he settled for me because I fell in love with and idolized him. Husband's college girlfriend, who he described the other day to a friend as "really beautiful" was blond. So were a lot of the prostitutes (though not all) that he picked, Chinese menu style, from that prostitute review and booking site.

It's a yukky place to go to, this corner of my mind. But sometimes I find myself here anyway.

This morning I went onto Husband's computer to Google something and, shovel in hand, still digging in this ditch, ended up looking at his web history. I found that he'd looked at about 10 pictures from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue this month.

What the fuck?! What business does he have looking at these basically naked, very young women splayed out and pouting, offering the promise of their bodies to all the drooling Sports Illustrated slobs? What other purpose could there be aside from satisfying that insatiable, uncontrollable part of himself that can't help but feel entitled to gorge himself on this kind of pathetic shit?

My own animal brain kicked in: I have to confront him. Demand to know why he's done this. Find out if he discussed the incident with his sponsor. But most important of all, I have to be prepared. Prepared to surgically cut him out and move on.

I could feel my insides going into lockdown, things slamming shut and hardening. It felt good, because it felt empowering. I want to protect myself. I want to be invincible. I want to kill before I get killed.

But for some reason, when I go into this mode now, the cost never escapes me. I could feel myself going places I know I don't want to go.

It was a good time to take a few deep breaths, and try to look evenly at the facts.

It was an isolated incident. He looked at only a small selection of the 45 photos that were available. He didn't go from there to any other gawking at women. He hadn't spent the day, or even any significant amount of time looking at these pictures. And he hadn't looked at any other pictures of women online (at least on this computer) this month or last. This incident was clearly a different pattern from what he'd done in the past when he was deeply involved in his addiction.

I want Husband to be perfect, and and he's not. But he's far from what he used to be regarding his compulsive sexual behavior: Completely lacking self-awareness, deluded, full of himself, resentful, angry, sarcastic and in denial.

I still feel my anger churning now. But I can see it's because of the things that are here for me to be with, to learn, to absorb: Most things that can kill me (literally and figuratively) are beyond my control. My self-worth is still so defined by how much I think others value me. I have a long way to go in learning how to value myself. I am full of self-loathing and doubt that are easily triggered. And I'm afraid, afraid, afraid - afraid that because I'm not good enough I'll cease to matter to people I trust and love. (I can see how crazy and inaccurate this is with my logical mind, but I think that's as close as I can come to identifying the feeling I have right now.) Feeling like a consolation prize is very frightening for me. I think because I feel so vulnerable, so out of control, because my own internalization of my value is so weak. Being tied to the capricious valuations of others is pretty terrifying. I don't think about this consciously, ever, but upon examination it feels like the undercurrent of what's going on when I get mired in this kind of thinking.

I'm going to stay on my side of the street with this. I'm going to assume Husband dealt with his actions appropriately. And I'm going to focus on myself. On who I am and who want to be in the world. I want to look at myself with God's eyes, and see all that God would see, the way that I look at my son and see all his magnificence.

It's easy to lose this thread of relationship to self in the dense fabric that is daily life. The temptation to get pulled into the urgency of the unimportant is strong and consistent.

So perhaps this is why Higher Power gives me teen sex scenes, hot blonds on the street, and those unwelcome invasive thoughts. They are all opportunities. Opportunities for me to lean into the dissonance and chaos of life and know again that I can be fully alive and present to both the ecstasy and rawest pain of a human life, and not be overcome.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No bathing twice in the same river…

I met Husband during an amazing and formative time in my mid-20s. Life was late nights doing theater and hanging out at the bar or diner across the street in the wee hours of the morning. We were young and creative and following our passions.

On a recent visit to that city, I returned to our old haunts. The building that housed our theater was completely gone, replaced by a glossy new high-rise. The diner had been raised and replaced by a Bed, Bath and Beyond. And there was a For Lease sign in the window of the bar.

The places where I’d had some of the most formative experiences of my life no longer existed. They had literally disappeared. Had I imagined that life?

It made me sad.

I had a similar experience when I learned that my grandparents’ house where I’d spent my teens had been bought and demolished by the next-door neighbor so he could expand his family compound.

The living room where I’d posed for pictures in my prom dress, the dock where my best friend and I would lie out in the sun and talk about boys and make-up and dieting and other things that girls of our age talked about; the deck and cupola that my uncle, now deceased, had designed and built so carefully with expert craftsmanship. And so much more. All gone. So many of my memories of teen-hood no longer had an anchor in this world.

It was strange, and realizing I could never go back I felt wistful.

Today I happened to walk by the hospital where Son was born. They are remodeling, and I could see that the part of the hospital where I’d spent the first 4 days of his life, staring with wonder and glee at my burrito-sized boy (he was 4 weeks early,) was being torn down. Soon there’d be nothing left of the place I’d spent those wonderful, amazing days but air. Or some new structure where the cycle of birth, life and death would continue with nothing to mark how special that little bit of space had been to me.

It made me sad.

I hold that time in my life so close to my heart. It was before I knew anything about Husband’s addiction, and life felt truly blissful. Husband was a great partner, and so happy to be a father. He wrapped and changed and held and rocked our little son while I recovered from a c-section.

Looking at that building always reminded me of that time. Of course I was actually blissfully ignorant. But I guess what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you until you know it.

A block away from that hospital is another building I pass by frequently of late. The “Asian Massage” parlor where Husband got his first hand job. That was the event that accelerated his sex addiction. He’d spend the first 13 years of our relationship content with porn magazines, online porn, and (unbeknownst to me) visits to peep shows and strip clubs. Within months after that “massage” he started using ads in the back of the Weekly to find women to give him hand jobs, and going to “massage” parlors. Within another couple of years he was having sex with prostitutes at massage parlors, and then ramping up to more frequent meetings with high priced prostitutes at hotels.

But that building has changed, too.

It’s recently become a “day spa.” The dark, one-way windows and “Oriental Massage” signs have been replaced by see-through glass and signs with pictures of women on them advertising skin care treatments.

It made me happy to see that building had evolved beyond its sad use as a thinly veiled venue for buying sex. I have often wondered how many women passed by that storefront with a shudder or a pit in their stomach.

Holding both the sadness of seeing the hospital and the good feeling of seeing the former massage parlor, it reminded me that this is what life is about.

Things change. That’s the one thing we can count on. The good changes. The bad changes. The highs become lows and then highs again. We change. We get fatter, thinner, more conservative, more adventurous, older, greyer - sometimes wiser. But every day, in some way we are different and life is different.

Something that remains a challenge for me is to leave room for the idea that Husband can change. Even after almost 3 years of recovery work, I don’t think I go a day without being reminded in some way of his betrayal.

But part of my work in this lifetime is to surrender to the fact that things change, and that much of life is beyond my control, no matter how hard I work, how nice I am, how smart I am, what class I take, what plans I make, or how much salt I throw over my shoulder. Husband is a different person today. He certainly isn’t perfect, but he’s done a lot of work and he is definitely a better partner for me than he was before. And I’m a better partner for him. And a much better partner for myself.

Like all things, I too can change.

Friday, April 9, 2010

How about a NEW sexual revolution?

As I read about Tiki Barber and the guy in China who is sparking discussion about sex parties as a personal freedom issue, it strikes me that we need a new sexual revolution.

I'm all for free speech, and prohibition doesn't seem to work well, but the impact of "casual" sex, multiple sex partners and the full menu of sex-related things available via the internet needs to be part of a big, frank public conversation: Not the morality of it, but the individual and social impact of it, the mental state of the people who participate in it, etc.

We need to be talking about the truth of things like casual sex, anonymous sex, multiple sex partners, cybersex and pornography: That they're fantasy, that healthy sexuality is connected with intimacy, that while we have biological urges we also have brains evolved enough to act responsibly, and that images that turn human beings into sexual objects create damage by teaching people that it's just fine to decouple intimacy from sex. I think, at least in the US, this is more of a health issue for society than a personal freedom issue.

So maybe the next question is, what's the new movement going to be called? T-shirts that say "PORN SUCKS" would certainly start conversation, but on the other hand, I don't want my kid asking me what porn is. So I need to think of a more child-friendly name for this new movement.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Can't you hear what I'm THINKING???!

Husband is hard to talk to. He gets defensive, and I have to choose my words very carefully or we get off track as he tries to invalidate some aspect of what I'm saying. (I think I do the same to him when I get defensive, so I have compassion for his use of this frustrating tactic.)

I'd decided that I wanted to tell him that I'd felt kind of pissed off that he was a jerk to me about not being able to get an iPad. That would be something new for me, because in my head I had a thousand reasons why that conversation didn't need to happen. I saw an opportunity for contrary action and took it.

During the course of the conversation he told me that one of the things that had triggered the depressed feelings he was having this weekend was saying what he wanted (the iPad) and me saying I didn't think he should get it. He said this was part of his attempt to set boundaries and express what he wants.

But I was confused about what getting an iPad had to do with boundaries, and I tried to ask him about this. We went back and forth. As he's done so often over the course of our relationship, he accused me of not letting him have his feelings. (I have to admit that's been true in many cases - I was raised in a family where any expression of upset was met with attempts to fix or "helpfully" invalidate it.) But I was getting flustered and he was getting pissed, and things were getting a little ugly. Not really bad for two people who avoid Confrontation, but we were doing Confrontation pretty clumsily.

Finally I said, "I'm not saying it's inappropriate for you to want an iPad or to be upset if you can't get one, but something inappropriate is going on here. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but something's not right for me, and I'm not going to back away from this because you're getting upset and telling me that I never let you have your feelings. There are lots of things that I want that I can't have right now, but I don't get upset about it because that's just the way it is at the moment. We can't afford it. I don't get upset about it. And I think that's a healthy, adult response. When we're in such a bad financial position it's inappropriate for you to feel okay about being pissy toward me about not being able to get an iPad. And I don't understand what getting an iPad has to do with setting boundaries!"

He considered for a moment. I could see he was struggling with feeling righteous, resentful and pissed off on one hand, and trying to really consider what I was saying on the other hand.

Then he told me that he has in his mind that I think a lot of things he wants are silly. And I've no doubt I've contributed to that feeling by questioning and being skeptical about a lot of the expensive gadgets he's interested in purchasing. If we had the money, I wouldn't care. But when we don't have the money, I think I have the right as a partner in our financial life to express my doubts and concerns. (There've been many times over the course of our relationship where I should have questioned him and didn't because I have in my head that he's right about me being silly to question expensive purchases.) And as an expert absolutist I'm sure I have the "end-of-discussion" tone without realizing it.

For any flies on the wall, his entitlement banging up against my absolutism must be a thing to behold.

I think part of the problem is that he's so disempowered himself in some aspects of our relationship that if I question or push back he takes it as a "no," disengages from discussion and just sinks into resentment. I didn't realize this until today.

A bit of history: Husband plays pickup basketball every weekend. He'd asked if it was okay if he went out to play on Easter Sunday. He typically goes from 9am - noon-ish, and we had a lot of plans for that day, so I said I thought it might be better if he spent the day with the family, or at least asked Son if it was okay with him. He chuckled and said, "Oh, Son's already let me know it's not okay with him!"

On Easter day, he was feeling down. Son had already gotten his basket of candy and done a little egg hunt, and it was still a few hours before we had to leave for other events of the day, so I told Husband he should go play basketball at least for a little while if he wanted to, and he did. (Although once he got there, locks and fences kept him from getting in the game so he didn't actually get to play.)

So today, as we continued our conversation about the iPad issue he said to me, "I'm not good at saying what I want." He went on to say that it was only because I've been so kind and supportive of his request to play basketball every weekend that he's been able to carve out that time. He was trying to give me credit, but I told him that I didn't want that credit. I wanted him to take responsibility for having made that happen. I was really surprised how entirely he credited me with "letting" him do that. It's weird. I don't look at our relationship that way at all.

I think there's still a lot that I don't know about that goes on in his head. And I guess that's probably true of most of us. I know I'm continuously surprised by the insecurities and self doubts of people I have great respect for, who seem so confident and sure to me. And I know all the unexpressed craziness that goes on in my own head!

So today I re-learn this lesson: Dialogue will always result in better communication than a silent monologue in my head.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Oh that's're still a narcissistic asshole

Lightbulb! Lest I forget that recovery is a journey not a destination, Husband's occasionally stunning sense of entitlement rears its head.

We were on our way home after a lovely evening out, and talking about the assignment that Husband's therapist had given him: Find something within the family to set boundaries about, something where you say "this is how it's going to be for me."

He asked for me to help him think about what that might look like, and the first thing that popped into my head was that he needs a computer that is his. Right now, he's using my mom's laptop (she's essentially given it to him, though she'll use it from time to time.) The desktop computer that we bought for him has become a family computer. He's really been longing for a computer that nobody else touches but him. (I have a laptop that I use for work that's pretty much mine, although it's serving as the family DVD player right at this moment.)

So I suggested a computer. He grinned and told me that there's an Apple iPad on reserve for him until 3pm tomorrow. News to me, but fine.

He's really been pining for an iPad, but I'm not really a proponent of being early adopters only because we are pretty much broke. But I'd been thinking that maybe we should get one eventually since he's been wanting one so badly.

Reviews for the iPad came out today, and @pogue said that the iPad is great for consuming but not great for creating. Husband is a writer, and he uses his computers primarily for writing, Lexulous and Facebook. But writing is the main purpose.

We were in the kitchen, his arms around me, and he rested his cheek on mine and said, "I really do want a computer."

"I think you should get a computer," I said, "but not an iPad."

"Why?" he asked as he drew back.

I was surprised by his irritation.

"Well...because they're brand new..." He looked disgusted. "And because David Pogue said they're great for consuming stuff but not so great for creating stuff."

The conversation ended pretty quickly and he huffed off to bed.

I was pissed off. He's been unemployed 15 months. We wonder every month if/how we're going to pay our mortgage. We owe over $15K in back taxes because of the year he somehow thought he filed taxes but didn't. (That year he also spent thousands of dollars on prostitutes.) The IRS put a hold on ALL the money in our bank account this week. And he's ticked off that I don't think he should get an iPad right now.

ENTITLEMENT: Belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.

Yes, I am married to a narcissist. That will never change.

What will change is his level of self awareness, his ability to perceive his impact on others, and how he responds to his own behavior. And those things have changed. A lot. Through a lot of courage, hard work and willingness on his part, he is a different person in many regards. But, like my absolutism, his sense of entitlement isn't something that can be cured.

That's what I think.

And now, here's how I feel:

Ugh. I really hate that aspect of his personality. Really. It's stupid! I mean, how can a person in such a dire financial position logically harbor a notion that he should be among the first people in the WORLD to own an iPad? Is this thought process what a fucking Ivy League education buys? And why do I have to catch attitude for such stupid thinking? Why do I have to be subject to your infantile tantrums? I have ENOUGH to deal with. Fucking evolve, won't you???!!!!

Phew! What a relief to vent and get that off my chest!

I'm not sure how to handle with this. I can see it for what it is (Husband's narcissism surfacing,) and Husband probably will too over the next few days. But I'm also really irritated, and my inclination is to withdraw. My thought process is that I don't want to deal with stupid asshole behavior so I won't. I'll tune it and him out until it stops. But I know that's not really healthy either. Because there are things going unspoken (but not unexpressed - which is key. I come from a lineage of expert PASSIVE aggressors.) But I know he's not at his best, so I don't want to argue with him about something that he'll probably acknowledge as assholic before long. So I feel like I don't want to say anything. But that's patronizing and also gives into my penchant for deciding unilaterally that I will just deal with something on my own rather than confront someone.

I'm confused. I'm in the middle of this, and I can't see the forest for the trees. I really don't know how to respond to this in a healthy way.

So I'm going to sleep on it.

I'll be the one in bed next to the asshole.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Parenting, re-parenting, and getting back on the horse

As a recovering co-dependent raising a little son with a recovering sex addict, I often worry about whether or not my child has any chance of developing into a healthy person. (I'm half kidding when I say this, but only half.)

In a post with what I think are several excellent points on parenting, GentlePath said: " most important job was to help my children develop a working inner compass..."

I can see that neither Husband nor I were validated in that way as children. His needs and feelings went unnoticed, and mine were only acceptable within a narrow range. I was often comforted with explanations of why I didn't need to feel the way I was feeling. It was all well intentioned, but I developed into someone without a strong inner compass.

For over 40 years I looked at how others responded to me to understand myself in the world. I had no sense of self-preservation because thinking of yourself above others was something good people didn't do in my black and white upbringing.

As part of the recovery process I've become aware of this dynamic, and I've been able to develop a stronger relationship with my self, a better ability to self-validate, and a deeper understanding/belief that I alone am responsible for my responses, and hence my experience of life.

This means not only looking for the most empowering interpretation of a situation, but also expressing my needs and boundaries, surrendering to all good things that come my way, and approaching things I want with the attitude of "why not me?"

These things continue to be challenging in practice, but since I've come to believe that the path I'm on is the path I'm on, just getting back on the horse seems to be the most sensible thing to do.

I recently put myself up for a dream job. The opportunity came out of thin air, and I grabbed it before my fear could push it away. My mind was screaming at me that I was unqualified, that there were million reasons why they'd pick someone else over me, that who was I to think I should be considered for this chance.

But with a lot of deep breathing I muscled those fears aside and called up my "why not me?" attitude. I dove in and prepared, let myself envision myself doing the job, immersed myself in a lot of creative thinking about my take on what I'd do in the position. I continued feel scared, but by the time I walked into that interview I also believed I was as deserving, worthy and qualified as everyone else I knew who was up for the job. (I knew most, if not all, of the other candidates.) The work I'd done after declaring "why not me?!" had given me a foundation for truly feeling confident.

The interview went really, really well. Ultimately, though, I didn't get the job.

But because I was determined to allow "why not me?" to sit alongside my fears, I know I showed my very best. And now that I've done it once, I know I can do it again.

Fortunately for my son, Husband and I have always prioritized validating his feelings and experiences, and have tried hard to support him in resolving his own problems rather than trying to fix, solve and resolve things for him. So I think he will have some form of inner compass.

But I also need to remind myself that as much as I want to be the perfect parent and make sure that he's happy and healthy forever and ever, my ability to do that is limited. I can do my very best with the tools I have to give him a good tool set of his own, and then he will be on his way, walking his own path, learning, or not, to surrender and to get back on his horse.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2 years, 8 months

Things continue to be...good. I think that's the best word. When I focus on being related and connected, Husband are I are related and connected. Sometimes, though, I become aware of the distance that I still feel between us, all coming from my side I think.

We were making love last night and I felt like Husband couldn't come and I was wondering if he was or would have to think about other women in order to climax. Wondering if I wasn't turning him on.

So still a lot of work to be done on my side of the street.

We hardly talk about sex addiction these days. We talk about recovery instead. But I still have nagging thoughts pop into my mind regularly.

Last night I went to a spa. Lying on the table with my eyes closed, I wondered if there was any way Husband could get a relaxing scrub like I was getting. But I really have trouble with the idea of him going to get a massage. My mind wondered about husband at those massage parlors. What it must have been like with strange women rubbing his body and jerking him off. Eventually, when he got bold enough to leave the right amount of money on the table, climbing onto the table and sliding him inside them. How did they feel in his hands? How do I feel different from them?

Yes, my crazy mind still goes to these places.

I do a pretty good job of stopping myself before I go too far down the dark rabbit holes of my frightful imagination. I know they all lead to the same place, and I don't want to go there because it has nothing to do with the reality of the present.

Jeff Bridges said in a recent interview about his wife of 30-something years that they've been through hard times and the very things they thought could rip them apart made their bond stronger in the end. I find myself longing for the closeness I used to feel before all of this, but I can feel that I don't trust husband enough to feel that way. Maybe I never will, because maybe it was a naive kind of trust that I've grown past. Perhaps I'll need to find a completely different kind of deep bond in who I am and who we are together today. Not a very satisfying thought at this moment. But healing demands time, if nothing else.

So 2 years and 8 months later, things are good, Husband is truly a different man, I am a different woman, and neither of us are perfect. And my absolutist self now understands the peace to be found in letting that be, in surrendering (once again) to "progress, not perfection."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010