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 29, 2012

Hard things settling in

Warning: This is just stream of consciousness, so don't read further if you have little tolerance for disorganized thoughts and feelings.

It's been a week since I found out about Husband's most recent deceptions. Over that time it's begun to settle in that I need to take a look at where I really am in this journey. And that's been gradually more and more depressing as I realize how much is called into question.

Today I've been feeling a big sense of loss, some regret, and a good amount of anxiety and fear. I was at the bookstore this morning and saw a former classmate who went on to have a successful career as a studio executive in the entertainment industry. She was there with a handsome, fit man and two girls - her family I assume. Since I've know her she has launched her career, risen to the top, and then retired to be with her family. I hid from her. I couldn't bear to face her because I didn't know what I could say about my life. "Hi, I've accomplished little professionally, I'm unhappy in my current job, I'm married to an addict, I've just found out for the 3rd time that he's lying to me, we have no savings for the future, our house is under water, we live paycheck to paycheck. How are you?"

I feel so pathetic right now, it's hard to think straight. Part of me asks how I could possibly have ended up here, and the other part of me knows my life is mostly nothing more or less than the result of choices I've made. Most of the time I'm happy with our modest lifestyle because I've felt like I had the important things in life: family, friends, love, companionship, a solid relationship. But with the loss of the progress I thought Husband and I were making in our relationship I don't feel like I have anything. The only positive thing I can point to is my wonderful son, but I don't consider him a personal accomplishment.

Maybe I need to start doing gratitude lists so I can get re-connected with the wonderful things I do have in my life: Family who love me and would always be there for me, girlfriends who are like sisters who love me, a wonderful son who loves and appreciates me. I have my health. I have a job. I have a car. I have health insurance. It's only when I compare myself to others, or to where I think I should be that I feel the pain of failure. And that's a big pain. I'm beginning to fear that I've wasted my life. As I search for jobs and feel the ageism creeping in, I'm beginning to understand that doors are closing for me, whether or not that's right or fair.

My anon program recommends that we let self-seeking slip away and look for where we can be of service. Maybe that's my best next step. Where can I be of service today? How can I take who I am and the things I have to offer and be of service to others? I've never known the answer to that, but now the question is much more pressing. I feel like my options are to figure that our or to give up. And I really don't want to give up. But today I feel so heavy and tired, and the way forward looks fraught with obstacles, and I feel like the clock is ticking on life which means there's so much at stake. I feel like there's no room for error and that paralyzes me.

Action. I have to take action. Move in a direction, any direction, because movement is better than no movement. I think my absolutism is heightened when I feel insecure. But if I make list of actions and just take them, something will happen. And then I can take other actions based on the result. It can be that simple if I just stop thinking about it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I'm the idiot still married to a liar

Last weekend Son and I came home from Son's sports lesson to find Husband passed out drunk on the couch. Not great by any standard, but really fucking bad because Husband was supposedly not drinking because of the last time he'd been secretly drinking and lying to me about it.

Four months ago I spelled out for Husband again how painful it is for me to be lied to,  how much damage it does to my ability to trust him, and how difficult it makes repairing our relationship. But husband is sick, and he's still not dealt with the things at the root of his sickness.

I've been trying to decide what to do now.

Instead of relying on only myself and withdrawing into problem solving in my head, I immediately called my three close girlfriends to get their perspective. They share my values, they all have kids (which gives me confidence that they understand my need for Son's well-being to be top priority,) they love both Husband and me and are mature enough not to take sides, and so I trust them to help bring clarity when there is too much fog on my path.

I can feel how much progress I've made in terms of boundaries, self-definition, and recognizing what's mine to deal with and Husband's to deal with. This weekend's incident brings into sharper focus where I still have work to do.

Husband lies to me for two reasons: He feels entitled to the things he does that he thinks I disapprove of him doing. And he's afraid of my response, my anger, disdain, or disappointment, if he does something I don't like. I've taken this as reasonable. Of course someone might lie if they're afraid of the consequences - afraid of losing something they value. And this is where my sickness comes in.

Living with somebody who is willing to lie costs me dearly in ways that are not immediately evident. Just like last time, I thought something was off. He'd come home smelling like alcohol after work sometimes. I even asked him about it once or twice and instead of getting defensive like I worried he might, he'd smile warmly and say "no, I haven't." Then I'd apologize for asking. But mostly I wouldn't ask, because I knew he was working hard, because he is a great dad and partner, because he is a good person, and because he'd made a promise to me after hearing clearly how much it hurt me to be lied to and hearing my explicit request for total honesty between us. I was sure I could trust him. 

So what I did was I readily, willingly negated myself, my sense of smell, my concerns, my ability to protect myself - I negated my own thoughts and instincts - in order to believe and give the benefit of the doubt to someone who has a history of repeatedly lying to me. 

Ah, the river Denial. It's depressing and embarrassing to be floating on your waters after five years of hard work. To be making this mistake, to still find blind spots (chasms?) with regard to my co-dependency. After all the progress I feel like I've made. I guess humility is part of this growth opportunity as well.

I'd stopped going to my weekly meetings because things were on an even keel. I was feeling closer and more loving and accepting toward Husband each day. Work was demanding, and I wanted to be sure to have time with Son while he still wants to spend time with me. So I let my meetings slide.

Lesson #1 (again): If I want to change lifelong patterns I'm going to need ongoing support - even after I feel like I've conquered those patterns. Five years is not enough practice to master the unlearning of behavior I've cultivated over a lifetime. Anon meetings need to be a regular part of my life. Maybe forever. (Ugh. I don't want to accept that.)

Lesson #2: Trust myself above all else. This is part of self-definition. I WILL SAY if things seem okay to me, and not rely on others to say that things are ok. And I will not trust known liars, no matter how repentant they are or what kinds of promises they make.

Lesson #3: Trust actions, not words. Promises mean shit. Actions are what make the difference. I know Husband loves me, he says he loves me, and his actions make him a great dad and partner to raise a child with. But his actions DON'T make him a good adult relationship partner, no matter what he says, how sorry he is, how different he wishes things were.

When Husband disappeared after our argument about his drinking this weekend and Son started asking where Daddy was I couldn't make up a story - I couldn't lie to Son. I didn't know where Husband was or when (if) he'd be coming back. So asked Son if he remembered how we'd talked about addiction and alcoholism in relation to drinking. He said yes, and I told him that Daddy actually had that problem, and that when we'd come home Daddy was passed out from being drunk. I told him that Daddy had been secretly drinking and lying to me about it. And that we'd had an argument and I didn't know where Daddy was but that he'd probably gone for a walk and would probably be back.

I've been not telling Son about any of our issues for the last five years. But I felt like the ground had been laid for a relatively frank discussion, and I wasn't going to lie to Son and break the trust in our relationship to cover up for Husband. I kept a positive tone, told Son that Daddy and I would be working on these issues. He seemed sad, and wanted time to himself. I let him know that Daddy was still the same Daddy and that we both loved him and that we could talk about anything whenever he wanted. I asked if he had any questions or concerns or worries. We talked a bit more and then he went up to his room "to think about things and listen to my story." (He loves to listen to stories on the iPod.) I asked him if he wanted to call any of his friends for support. "Not yet," he said.

I'm trying to get to a therapist to help me work out my next steps. If it was just me I'd throw in the towel, but I want to do the best I can to work on our issues for Son's sake.  But Son is old enough now and has enough emotional maturity and enough tools to handle what may come with support from Husband and me, and professionals if necessary. And I don't want to set the example that betrayal is trivial.

And another thing worth noting is that because Husband is willing to lie, I can't be sure that there aren't other things he's lying about as well. I don't think there are, but this is where Lesson #3 above comes into play, right?

Thinking about the input I've received from friends and from my Anon meeting, I'm pretty sure I'm ready to say that this is the last time. I'm willing to continue to work, but if husband lies to me, deceives me, betrays my trust again I'm going to get a divorce. That is really scary, because it's giving up a lot. Husband is a wonderful father, a great partner in many ways, a relatively responsible provider, he loves me, he's my champion, he's smart and warm and funny, he only wants the best for me. But I think sacrificing my Self in order to keep the positive things I get out of having Husband in my life is not going to turn out well for me. Living with lies confuses my relationship with the core of myself. It doesn't feel like a good thing to do because it requires not trusting myself. I have to write this here so that I have a plan to refer to if the going gets rough.

I am trying to hang on to the life I want, but the truth is I just don't have it and I never did. A hard thing to process at 47 years old. Another thing I don't want to accept.

God...please, please, please...grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, help me find the courage to get the support I need to change the things I can, and help me hold on to the clarity and the wisdom to know the difference.

I don't feel that clear right now.