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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Beyond aversion and separation

Seeing our oneness is the beginning of our compassion, and it allows us to reach beyond aversion and separation. -Sharon Salzberg, “A Quiver of the Heart

I think the "oneness" Salzberg talks about is integral to my concept of Higher Power.

Higher Power as defined on the SAnon website:
1. A source of help greater than we are; 2. A source of help we define ourselves (for example, the group, nature, God as defined in an established religion, etc.); 3. An ever-present Power greater than ourselves that gives us an increased feeling of peace and comfort when relied upon.

And I think it's through my relationship with this oneness, a power greater than myself, through faith in this bigger picture that I don't always immediately perceive, that I'll be able to reach beyond aversion and separation with Husband, and get to the love that persists.

For truly, I cannot do it alone.

I say this because that's so easy for me to forget. Even after 4 years of recovery, the self-sufficiency that has helped me survive and thrive is my go-to response and the direction in which I drift when I am lulled by the day-to-day into unconscious living.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Need input

After Husband recently lied to me about how many drinks he had at a party, I asked him what he was going to do to address this breach of trust.

In addition to returning to therapy (still hasn't happened) he said he was going to stop drinking for a year.

Well, this morning he woke up and told me that last night at his "dinner with the guys" he had a glass of wine. From the rest of his tale I suspect it may have been more than one, but no matter. Another breach of trust.

Here's an email exchange between us from this morning, with me trying to hold firm to my boundaries, express myself, and figure out whether or not I'm holding Husband to an impossible standard:

Husband: Sorry for being cranky this morning and for drinking last night. This [issue I have at work] is really stressing me out but that is no excuse and certainly not your problem. I will make sure I don’t bring any baggage home any more.

Sorry also about asking you to take Son to camp all this week. I know you’ve been taking most of the responsibility for him since I started this job and I really appreciate that.

Me: I appreciate your email, and that you're acknowledging things and taking responsibility for them.

The thing that's disappointing to me is how quickly a commitment you made to me went out the window. A commitment you made to me because you lied to me about drinking.

We need to get help to work on rebuilding our trust and intimacy to a higher level, and to work on the issues we have that are obstacles to that.

Can you make it a priority to make an appointment for us with somebody?

I have re-contacted [my SA therapist] about setting up a couples session.


I'm really sad about this. I want to make progress, but it's impossible to grow intimacy without trust.

You are a fantastic dad, and a fantastic person to have a kid with. It's just in the relationship between us that I don't feel safe. I don't lie to you, or treat my commitments to you with only mild regard, so it's very hard for me to understand when you do that. I feel like, when it comes down to it, our relationship is not worth the effort to you. I know it takes rigor and discipline to have such a high level of integrity, but I can't accept anything less, given our history. And if you feel like I'm asking too much, I don't know what to think about that. Which is why we need some help.

So thanks for contacting [the therapist.] If we don't have something scheduled with her within a week, I'm going to find someone else.

I don’t think you’re asking too much. Why do you think that?

Not thinking that, so much as wondering if that's the case. It's been less than 6 weeks since you made the commitment not to drink for a year. And you made the decision to set aside that commitment. So I wonder if my expectation that you'll keep your commitments to feels too great for you.

This is no small thing - I take the steps you said you'd take after you lied about the drinks very seriously, because I'm looking for opportunities to build our relationship. We've made a lot of progress, but there is still a significant amount of damage to be repaired. Some of it can only be repaired with the passage of time, and things like lying about the drinks and deciding to drink when you told me you wouldn't reset the clock for me. I feel like I have to start over. (I don't know what came of the nightly 10th step - maybe that's what prompted you to talk with me this morning, and that was a good thing.)

Again, I'm not talking in generalities about you as a person - I know you're trustworthy and reliable in a lot of areas. It's only in the relationship between us that I have huge doubts, because it feels like you keep throwing me over when the going gets rough, or even just choppy. You need to find other ways to handle your stress if we're going to maintain our relationship. Abandoning promises and lying aren't going to work for me. Nor will the other extreme - not talking about things and pretending everything is fine when it isn't. Those are both old ways of dealing with things.

I wonder if a journal, where you write down 3 things you're grateful for in your life, will give you some perspective on the stresses you have. And maybe, so you don't discount things that should be addressed, you write down 3 things you need to address and an action you'll take to address them, too. This is one thing that comes to mind as an alternative to those old ways of dealing with things.


Do I just have to accept certain behaviors if I'm going to stay married to an addict with narcissistic tendencies in recovery?

I really can't tell if I'm expecting too much. I know perfection is an impossible standard. But when I think about whether or not I could live up to the expectation I have in terms of truthfulness and integrity, it doesn't seem impossible at all. But I'm also an absolutist with blind spots who often needs help taking an honest look at herself, so I'm asking for feedback.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another note to self: Life will look different from what you expect. Get used to it.

This article by Katia Hetter on CNN is a great reminder not to allow myself to be disempowered by any circumstance, along with some good next-steps for partners on the receiving end of betrayal.

My personal takeaways:
  • Focus on the present moment
  • Create something & take charge of my own joy
  • Create an empowering context
  • Look for my own truth
  • Don't take the role of victim (i.e. If I'm unhappy about something, what can I DO about it?)
Do, Do, Do!

In conversations with my mother, I notice how easily she is stopped when something doesn't look the way she thought it would.

"I can't [insert desired thing here] because [insert obstacle here.]"

Mom: I can't have a studio because I don't have the money.

Me: Well, why don't you share with another artist?

Mom: I don't want to share a studio with another artist with no money! What if they can't pay their share of the rent??

Me: Okay. Why don't you share with an artist who is wealthy enough to let you pay $150 a month and they pay the other $600?

Mom: [Long pause.] Well...

And the list of obstacles and reasons why she can't continues from there.

Rather than looking for the window when she finds the door locked, she either walks away or feels victimized. Why doesn't she know how to fight for her dreams? I don't know. Why does she not even think to look for another path to that destination? Maybe she was never learned that is an option.

I see this in Mom and I know I've learned to do the same.

But awareness is my spiritual plunger, so...

Next item of business: Create something!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Will June 1st ever be just another day?

Tonight marks the 4th anniversary of the discovery that instantly and dramatically shifted my understanding of the world.

After 4 years of therapy, reading and recovery groups, I’m a very different person and I have a dramatically different understanding and experience of myself.

I’m aware of the need for boundaries. I understand how to validate myself instead of seeking validation from others. I have and nurture an empowering relationship with myself, in which it’s possible for me to acknowledge my strengths, talents and abilities, as well as my weaknesses, flaws and vulnerabilities. I’ve learned how to be responsible for myself (the topic of my SANON meeting last night) – emotionally, psychologically, financially, physically. I can stand my ground in the grip of fear and uncertainty. I had so much growing I didn’t know I needed to do, and I’ve done a lot.

That’s the upside.

I still have a lot of work to do. First and foremost in my mind is the need for me to find a way to express the anger and resentment I still have about what Husband did. I moved very quickly, probably too quickly, to being reasonable and understanding, to working toward a level-headed resolution. (A winning formula that often works in my favor, but has worked to my detriment in this case.) Most of the time I don’t suffer, but sometimes I’m plagued by thoughts I can’t escape. These thoughts are obstacles to happiness. They are often a bucket of cold water on our sex life. Together with the sudden and bitter rage I sometimes feel, they form the thin but impenetrable barrier I have with Husband.

I’m still afraid of him. He hurt and betrayed me so badly. Sometimes I think I’ll never be able to forgive him – as much as I want to. We have both worked so hard. But though I’m working against this tendency, I’m an absolutist, and I grieve the unblemished trust I had with Husband before I found out about all of his lies. And my most vulnerable part holds itself away from him like tender flesh flinching away from a hot stove. How can I not?

He’s the cobra that lays in wait for me. His presence helps me understand who I can be in the face of fear. It helps me access a strength that I never knew I had. But part of my ability to be with the cobra is the vigilance in my animal brain. That part of me is ready to fly at any moment, ready to say, “I knew it,” ready to sever the knot that joins us and sail for open water without a backward glance. How can we have the depth of intimacy and trust we had before when that part of me stands ready to defend me against undiscovered, unimagined parts of him?

I grieve.

I grieve loss of trust, loss of innocence, loss of respect, loss of passion, loss of lust, loss of a friend, loss of a husband, loss of a confidant, loss of safety and security, loss of bliss, loss of a past, loss of so much I thought I had.

As I write I know the answer lies in letting go somehow. And letting go again, and again, and again until there is nothing left to let go of but one last breath of air.

Letting go of how I want things to be, feel, look, and instead being with what is so, and shaping my life in that context. What kind of life can I make for myself in a world where people you love and trust the most can hurt and betray you so deeply that you feel like you’re walking through fire with all your skin scraped off? That’s a question I need to consider.

Because that’s true.

Little children who’ve been abused and abandoned can attest to a confusing and unpredictable world. Sometimes people who love you hurt you more than your enemies ever could. It happens.

Letting go of the idea that I can create safety. The right person, right job, right situation, right word, right moment…if only I can find The Right SOMETHING I’ll know I’m safe. What kind of life can I make for myself in a world where the only thing I can count on is that everything is temporary, everything changes? That’s a question I need to consider.

Because that’s true.

We can plan, anticipate, and be vigilant, and yet a loving parent can get cancer, an innocent child can be killed in a car crash, and a trusted husband can have a secret life. It happens.

Letting go of judgments of my circumstances as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, black or white, and just experiencing each moment as nothing more or less than a moment on my path, every challenge as an opportunity to grow or turn away from growth.

Because that’s true, too.

But some judgments and wishes I find hard to let go of.

I am sad, so sad, about the good things I feel I’ve lost: The ability to trust Husband completely, the certainty that Husband would always be a warm, safe port in any storm, the indescribable, unmatchable bond I felt when I looked at him, and the history of being true to and for each other that we shared.

I agree it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. But what do you do when you’ve loved and lost and you still choose to lead a life together? How do I stop wishing for a past I thought I had with his presence as a constant reminder of what never was and will now never be?

In this world as it really is, what kind of life am I willing to create? What am I willing to risk? What am I willing to demand?

Even after 4 years, I don’t have answers for many of my questions. I don’t know if June 1st will ever be just another day. Perhaps after 4 or 8 or 16 more years I will tire of this bit of suffering and finally let go of questions.

Maybe I’ll do that that tomorrow. The timeline for all of this is another thing for which I have no answer.

Maybe freedom lies in letting go of the assumption that there are answers.

Surrendering purpose to moments that I can fill with love, without attachment to a result.

Love Husband and be loved by him without attachment to the result?

My grasp of all that is fleeting, like a little ghost girl playing hide and seek with me.

The best I can do now is hold tight to the reins of the beastly fears I sometimes ride, whisper my now-favorite mantra, “…every challenge as an opportunity to grow or turn away from growth,” try to let go of those wishes, detach from the outcome, and breathe deeply into the gritty intensity of reality as it really is.

I read an article today about a miracle pill that can erase painful memories and wondered to myself if I would take that pill. The pain is what sharpens all the details of life – the good as well as the bad. If I dull that pain, mute it so that it is only a vague notion, instead of facing it head on like a warrior, would I sacrifice all that I’ve gained? Since I’ve been through so much and reaped the benefits of those battles, I’m not willing to give up that hard won ground. I’m not here to live in a blissful haze. Maybe that’s what I was doing before all this. But I feel like Neo in the Matrix, and now there’s no going back.