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.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A way to move forward

When I first discovered Husband’s secret life, I immediately turned to my go-to tool set: Think about where I want to end up, and do what I need to cause that outcome. Be reasonable. Be nice. Be understanding.

These things often serve me well, but they fell short of helping me say thing things that I really needed to say in those early days and weeks and months.

What I didn’t have when I discovered Husband’s betrayal were tools to express the deep anger and resentment I felt about what he did.

With years of therapy behind me, I’ve learned new tools and I’m better able to say what needs to be said, to talk about my feelings, including anger, and better at facing conflict and situations that frighten me. So when feelings of anger and resentment come up, I’m more able to talk with Husband about them.

But when I try to express the anger and resentment I feel today about those past events, it’s confusing to both of us. Husband doesn’t stop me, but I know it’s hard for him because he feels so different from the person he was. And it’s hard for me because I know, after years of therapy and recovery work, he’s a different man, and it doesn't feel like anything is being gained in our relationship by me purging myself of these things that feel like they need to come out.

What I realized after talking with my close friend (who also happens to be a therapist) is that the person I have unresolved issues and unspoken anger and resentment toward is gone. The person I need to yell at - scream at, curse at - has disappeared.

I don’t know exactly what to do about my issues with an absent perpetrator (especially as I don’t feel very satisfied by role playing, yelling at pillows, or writing unsent letters,) but it’s very helpful to distinguish because it clarifies a couple things for me:
  • Husband’s recovery doesn’t invalidate my lingering unresolved issues.
  • It’s possible to be angry with “old” Husband, while trying to live in the moment and have a loving relationship with “new” Husband; it’s possible to let them be two different people so I can move forward with the healthier person who’s in front of me now.
I’m still not sure how I’m going to resolve things with someone who’s no longer around to hear me out, but this perspective helps me separate the person Husband is today from the person he was, which creates the opening for me to live the life I have right now, less constrained by unresolved issues from the past.

7 comments:

L said...

I encounter the same problem. I still have anger and rage despite the fact that he isn't acting out and continues to work so hard at sobriety. What tools do you use to work through your anger?

~L

Lexie said...

I wish I could be as nice and forgiving as you. I don't care if my h becomes "someone else." (I truly do not believe that he could, anyway, for if he could, he wouldn't have done what he did in the first place.)

I'm too G-D hurt.

it just hurts so badly...

I wish I even had any love left for my husband. he destroyed it all... i loved him so much.

honey, forgive me, but "finding a way to move forward with the unresolved anger" sounds like a nice way of saying that you are stuffing it all down?

However, I don't have any answers. who does? This is the stuff of nightmares. Obviously, screaming bloody murder at him, isn't going to help.

that's why I'm outta here. I don't have the emotional fortitude or strength to wait for him to figure out what an amazing woman I am (after 25 yrs. and much, much what I thought was HIM AND ME AGAINST THE WORLD, but also included a cast of dozens of others, unbeknownst to me) and to figure out WHY he could do the things he did to a woman who claimed to love and cherish? I don't care. I don't want to know. Its sick and i'm done.

my best,

Lexie

PS: I still have the same problem that you have... even with leaving... and its a topic of a discussion on a support blog I'm on. how do we move forward from the trauma? (no matter if we stay or go?)

BLAZER PROPHET said...

Now that I follow your blog, I wonder if you want advice. That is to say that sometimes advice can be destructive regardless of how well intentioned it may be.

So as someone who lost a wife I loved dearly to numerous affairs, I also see in your blog a different man and a different wife.

I wonder if the two of you need to sit down, introduce yourselves to each other and decide if you are even in love with one another or of there's a basis for a relationship to exist.

While it's always good to see people in a situation like this want to change and grow, maybe the changes and growth are apart. You certainly have a lot of anger and hurt after these years. I see no joy or contentment in your marriage.

woman.anonymous7 said...

L - Some of the tools I use to work through my anger are therapy with a sex addiction specialist, exercise, meditation, reading Buddhist literature, writing, attending a 12-step group and sharing with members of that group, communicating my feelings and not leaving things unsaid, allowing myself to be unreasonable, and leaning to the discomfort and sometimes even pain of difficult situations. And yet the anger has not gone away. I believe some of it is choice. I hang on to anger as a defense against vulnerability. I'm still walking this path and have no concrete answers, but I have more reason to continue than to give up.

Lexie - I'm so sorry for your pain. Your situation sounds so much like my own, and I know that raw agony of such a deep betrayal.

Ultimately it's not about trying to be nice (although no doubt because of my own issues that has played a role) but about survival. I feel my only choices are to face this, or be consumed by it in some way. So I'm trying to go head-on with it, to get to the root of the things I'm dealing with, and not stuff it down (because I also have a tendency to do that, and I believe part of my journey is to learn a new way to deal with conflict.) I've concluded that my life must be all about the journey because I no longer believe there's a destination. Right here, right now - this moment is all I have. Yesterday is gone and there's no guarantee I'll see tomorrow. For my own self, moving forward has been a process of going inward and going deep and slogging through muck. That's when I see progress. My story is just one, though. Each of us has our own journey, and will ultimately find our own way.

About trauma, I believe I suffered post traumatic stress disorder. There are specialists who deal with PTSD in partners of sex addicts, and this is something I'm considering looking into for myself.

Blazer Prophet - I appreciate your thoughts. I see great possibility for joy and contentment with Husband beyond the mountains of absolutism, fear, grasping and clinging, which are mine to conquer. If I did not see actual progress toward that possibility I would not be here. When I no longer see progress toward that possibility, I will leave.

Lexie said...

Honey, I have to admit that this post upset me so much, that I unsubscribed from you. I have seen you around for a long time, but never had subscribed. I'm gonna put you back, though. Its not personal. I'm sure that you are a very lovely woman. It upset me for a zillion reasons, and one, because my h didn't even make ONE attempt to get US back. I did the best I could, but after a while, I found myself in the arms of another man... after all, I too needed love and affection and he had NONE to offer me and he had made this clear and suggested that I date if I wanted to.

Of course, the "man" (Predator) was nothing but a snake in the shape of a man... A virulent predatory sex addict who did a real number on me, and left me reeling from the aftermath for a very long time... but...

its all connected to the dysfunction of the original issue which was my husband's infidelities, which went much further and deeper (sorry for the lame pun) than I would've ever believed. He is the passive, but "helpful" type. well, unbeknownst to me, it also meant helping himself to whatever he felt that he "needed" and "deserved."

I HAD NO IDEA.

and then, he left it open for me to discover... on MY laptop.

I'm beyond angry. But, its less than 3 months since I got the brunt of full discovery. There's so much more to it, but I can't even begin to think about staying and I have some compelling reasons to do so, too.

I don't even know how I'm going to get by... but I can't live with someone who could do that to me.

So, how do you do it? Anger aside. How can you still love someone who could ever do what he did to you? you don't have to answer it, if it makes you uncomfortable. I just don't get it.

Predator's partner, also stayed with him, and THINKS that he's all "recovered" too... but he's not. I have seen dozens of his ads, looking for couples, etc.

I just could not live a life, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, while also feeling such intense pain and anger.

best ~ Lexie

woman.anonymous7 said...

Lexie - I completely identify with most if not all of what you write. I had (and still have sometimes) all that anger, and so much pain and grief.

To your question of how I stay: At first I only stayed because we have a son, and for me it felt like the right thing to do to stay long enough to see what might be done. (To be clear, if I'd felt either my son or I were in physical danger I would not have considered staying.)

Then, as Husband worked hard at recovery and began to change significantly, he really did become a different person. If he hadn't demonstrated tremendous, consistent effort, and if he hadn't been able to change certain things, I don't believe I'd be with him today.

Now, I too have changed. My approach to life is different. One thing I've given up is the idea of "forever" in my marriage. I'm married one day at a time. That's it. I don't think about forever, and I don't think I'll pass on to my son the ideal of "forever." Monogamy, yes. Commitment and willingness to work hard to overcome difficulties, yes. But I no longer believe it's healthy to depend, emotionally, on somebody else being there forever. I believe the truth is that nobody can count on that. Things change, the unexpected happens, the unthinkable happens. We are powerless in the face of that. So I stay married to a man who is willing to look deep within, to wrestle with his demons, to humbly acknowledge his character defects, and to grow - and I stay married one day at a time.

Everybody is different. You and only you know what is right for you. One of the things you can learn from this difficult issue is how to trust yourself. Because you can. I had lost or never developed the ability to be guided by my Self, but that potential was always there and now I'm learning daily how to listen to myself, empower myself, and trust myself.

I wish you peace.

Lexie said...

Thank you for your kind, thoughtful answer. It makes a lot of sense. When I first found out, over 5 years ago, I had two neuro-Atypical kids ages 16 and 11... could. not. deal.

and then... all of the in between, and also, really trying my best to be available to him... but no. go.

I don't know if there IS a best. I guess I have to make my own best. And for me, especially, since he did have the time and energy to f**k around, but not the time and energy and resolve to figure out how to support his family... well, its just all too much.

I'd rather be poor and be able to hold my head up high, then poor and feeling stomped on.

And at least open myself to a better possibility. You are lucky. I don't think that most people change all that much. That IS... unless they really, really want to. My is going to be 60 in a couple of days.

cutting my losses, before they are completely irreversible. but, its still very difficult. I've had plenty of loss in my life. plenty. But nothing ever like this.

my best ~ Lexie