In our Affair Recovery class, we joined a small group of other couples in a weekly conference call led by a moderator. Each couple was struggling to reconcile after infidelity. That was the common thread. But, I know TL took note of key differences between us and the other couples. Most of the other couples were talking about a single affair, not a series of affairs and prostitutes. I remember the chiropractor and wife who dropped out after two sessions or so. TL and I tried to figure out why they left. Maybe the guy wasn’t really interested in the class because he didn’t want to admit to his sins. There was an older woman who was a waitress who had cheated on her husband. I think she was really trying to help her husband, but was still rationalizing as well. Her husband was in such pain, we could all feel it. There was a South Asian-American couple with young children who had both cheated on each other. TL and I were hoping to find a couple like us in the group. We hoped maybe we could share experiences and I could find an accountability partner. There was no such couple, no such person.
During the AR class, we were also seeing Counselor Troi. She showed us an interesting technique that I think helped us both. She said imagine your pain as a person, sitting across from you. Talk to it. Ask it, “what do you want from me?” “Why are you here?” And, then tell it, “I don’t need you.” Watch it leave, disappear, evaporate. Troi taught TL this technique. TL wasn’t ready for that just yet, but would later find it helpful. I tried it immediately and did find it useful.
Yes, my “pain” was asinine, sick, and unjustified. Nonetheless, I thought perhaps the technique might help me handle it better. I envisioned my pain: the naive, young boy from a small conservative family in a small conservative town, who felt completely inferior to peers at college or at work who seemed so worldly, experienced, and progressive about politics, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and sex. Why had I thought I needed that pain? I had needed it to open the door to self-pity. I clung to self-pity like a security blanket. I used it to justify hurtful choices. I said to my pain, “I don’t need you.” It may have been the closest I had ever gotten to controlling my self-pity instead of letting it control me.
In Affair Recovery, Rick talked about the importance of reaching “ground zero,” revealing all hidden things to the betrayed spouse. That was the initial lesson. We read, listened, wrote, and discussed about the fear and devastation we each felt about ground zero in our marriages. We understood this to mean reconciliation could not really begin until the couple reached ground zero, the revelation of all affairs, contact, lies, betrayals, and illicit thoughts and behaviors in the marriage. We reached ground zero, through very painful talks before even starting AR, but the class confirmed it was the right thing to do. And, I assured TL it was not an illusion by using polygraphs.