The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Friday, 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.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I would agree with Carnes; there are times when over thinking becomes the coping tool for our lack of involvement. Acknowledging that puts you ahead of the curve. Good for you!

Dr. Scott