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.

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.


Ground Zero said...

From the outside there is a glaring pattern in your writing.

Trigger - - life isn't how I would have imagined/wanted - - but this is more real, it is more mature - - hope/peace/and smiley face tacked on at the end.

That is one interpretation of the events you have related. That is will bring out the atta-girls from wife-of-SA or married-female-SA bloggers.

Looking at it all with a cool rational eye. A completely different patters seems more likely.

Just wondering, why didn't you answer the questions I had asked about your husband? Is it too personal? Or were you offended for some reason (no offense intended)?

(I connect because have been where you are. I hear myself in your writing.)

Misery Marketing said...

Very nice insight. I too suffered from the settling idea. I think about how my wife wants to reconcile and it scares me to think about letting that happen and then figuring out that it has more to do with security and getting her family life back than me. I can see how being a few months sober she would see us as a greatblife to be sober in compared to making it on her own which will be so tough. I was telling someone about how she smoked a cig during one of our last times together and it kicked up my already existing fears that she was just letting me get off. Our very last sex really seemed that way to me. I know those fears would be so present if I went back. Plus the resentment already there I'm sure I would treat her like shit just to see if she would take it and not run or get high. Sorry for hijackin your comments btw.

woman.anonymous7 said...

Ground Zero - Seeing the silver lining is a tendency I've always had. In retrospect, often to my detriment. But I also consider it a strength. I'll always have to be careful not to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as the saying goes. But I think it's possible to look for good where it can be found while not denying the bad; allowing the two to coexist, knowing that I have the skills to recognize when the ratio of bad to good is unhealthy, and the tools to do what needs to be done to take care of myself in that situation.

Life is often different from what I imagined. Sometimes better, sometimes not. Learning that it's mostly grey and not black and white has been and continues to be part of my journey.

It's challenging for me not to let the bad cancel out all the good. I'm learning to give things the weight that corresponds with reality. For example, I weighed Husband's one viewing of those pictures against the many things he does that I consider good and right and healthy, and the good outweighs the bad. In the past that one "bad" action would have had equal weight for me with the more numerous "good" actions.

Of course things like this are a case-by-case evaluation. In my mind, one sexual contact with another person is much different than one viewing of that soft-core Sports Illustrated crap, even if both only happened "once." Sexual contact with others is outside the boundary of what's acceptable for me. I'm not happy that he looked at those SI pictures, but it's not a make-or-break issue for me.

Having been through the last 3 years, losing my relationship is no longer a threat to my "self." I know that it's possible for me to be whole without my husband. He is no longer my tent-pole. I am my tent-pole. That's a very different dynamic, and healthier for me.

I published your questions because they were thought provoking for me. I think questioning my choices is more helpful to me than defending and justifying them, which is why I didn't respond. I believe that once I start defending I'll inevitably develop more of a stake in that particular position, and I don't want to do that. I want to remain open to changing my mind.

I appreciate your questions, because they do cause me to consider whether or not I'm sugar-coating my life and wearing the rose colored glasses I wore for so long. And that's something I'm less likely to do if not pressed.