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, 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.


L said...

It's hard for me to bias because you sound a lot like me. I'm a firm believer in "Say what you mean, and mean what you say". I also believe in creating clear boundaries which is what you did. He understood them and he didn't abide by them, so whatever the consequence was for breaking that boundary, it's time to enforce it.

In my case, my husband is a recovering sex addict. I created boundaries too and there are certain ones that have some leeway. His biggest trigger was stress and his biggest addiction was porn. So, knowing that stress can trigger him to look at porn, if he has a slip, he must inform me, think about what the trigger was and then I enforce the consequence (internet removal for one week and no affection.)

I'm not sure if something like that can be put in place? He did let you know that he drank when he didn't have to. That's a good sign IMHO. Also, he wants to abstain from drinking, and seeing his therapist is another good sign.

I don't think you have to accept any behaviors you don't want to - it's all up to you to decide what you're willing to tolerate.

Again, JMHO - you did great!!!

Briar said...

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

My understanding of what we learn in 12-steps is that, no, we don't have to accept certain behaviors, but we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of believing we can control it or demand the other person change. All we can do is know what we're not ok with and then put a clear boundary on it as you've done.

But while we need to be careful of that trap, we also have to be equally careful to not fall into the trap of doubting ourselves and our feelings on such matters. Being in a relationship with an addict means that we've often been told we are overreacting, that this or that was "no big deal", and we question ourselves. That being thrown off balance is what allows the addict to continue doing what they do.

In a way it doesn't matter that alcohol was involved. What matters more is that he agreed to something and then casually went back on his word. This is not ok between two people. I think you are right to call it what it is and to take swift action.

Scott said...

Setting appropriate boundaries is a grand thing. What many folks forget is that each of us bears the responsibility for how we respond to life's situations. That God-given right to choose for ourselves is what makes us most human; yet, that freedom also brings great responsibility for our actions.

Dr. Scott