Monthly Archives: February 2016

Creating loneliness 

The next John Baker question is:  What ways have I tried to escape my past pain?  Long time readers will recognize that this is not really a new question.  I think before D-day I was pained, irrationally, by my perceived lack of experience.  So, I tried to compensate for it, taking irrational risks and disregarding TL’s feelings in a desperate attempt to rack up more experience.  That turned out to be self-destructive as well as hurtful to TL.  How, Baker continues, has hanging on to my anger and resentments affected me?  That’s a restatement of the previous question.  The answer is the same.

Baker asks whether I believe loneliness is a choice.  He asks how denial has isolated me from important relationships.  He says to describe the emptiness I feel and talk about new ways to fill it.

Sure, loneliness is a choice.  I created unnecessary distance between TL and me.  What could I have done differently, on this issue specifically?  That’s not an easy question.  Sure, I could have not obsessed on jealousy and my inferiority complex related to sex.  I’ve stopped obsessing on those things now.  But, today I’ve arrived at that point only through the shock of almost losing TL.  Today, when I’m tempted to feel jealous, I stop it in its tracks by realizing how terribly hurt TL is.  It’s not so tempting to feel jealous of her when considering what desperate pain I’ve caused her.  Today, when I’m tempted to bemoan my feelings of inferiority regarding sex, I can quash the feeling by recalling how insignificant that question is compared to questions like whether I can stay with TL at all.

Catastrophe has taught me to stop thinking things that create loneliness for me.  I should have reached that point before causing a catastrophe.  Why didn’t I?  Let’s go back to the first year of my marriage.  I didn’t feel emptiness.  I felt inadequacy, self-doubt, and envy.  (The feelings were unfounded and irrational.)  The role of denial was to hide, from myself, the fact that my obsessive quest to increase my sexual experience would ultimately hurt TL.  I created loneliness for myself and TL by pursuing a double-life.  The fact that my double-life was secret from TL created an unnecessary distance between us.

I chose loneliness by choosing to keep secrets.  I think that’s the bottom line.  Secrecy isolated me from TL.  Now, in contrast, my goal is to reveal everything to her, in real time.

Separately, but related, in the early years of our marriage I often agonized aloud to TL about my feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and envy.  I harassed her with pleas for her to change the past.  I began to see my irrational pleas from two disparate angles.  On one hand, I saw that I was focusing too much of my happiness and self-worth on hopes of changing the past, and that I was causing TL great distress by frequently moaning, crying, or getting angry about the past.  On the other hand, I could not stop myself from obsessing on the past.

I should have cut off one of those two conflicting parts of me.  I should have either calmly and fully accepted the past and put it into perspective, or chosen to leave TL and accept that I could not be at peace with the past.  As we know, I didn’t really choose.  I tried to take a middle road.  I wonder now whether any sort of therapy might have better prepared me for that middle road.  Could a therapist have helped me put the past into perspective?  Could a therapist have convinced me not to risk everything through adultery?  Would a therapist have dissuaded me from adultery?

Would I have listened?  Probably not.

I had four options:  accept the past and put it in perspective, leave TL, accept therapy and believe that I could accept the past and put it into perspective, or choose the middle road, the road to adultery and double-life.  I chose the latter.  I chose loneliness.  (This statement is not self-pity.  It’s just my response to Baker’s questions and acknowledgment of my errors.)

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The shield of doubt

I am scared. I am scared to believe in others, I’m scared to believe in my own instincts, I’m scared to believe in the future, I’m scared to live in the present. I’m scared. I know it, I see it, I feel it and I have trouble letting it go.

I am working hard to give myself the tools to not be scared of my future, whatever it holds, whomever it includes. But, I still don’t trust my own instincts. I am beginning to realize that such lack of trust in my own instincts is purposeful on some level.

Here’s what I know. All too often, the betrayed who declare with certainty, “I have forgiven him for everything” or “We are living our happily ever after” or “I know 100% that he will never do this again” and/or “we are fully R’d” or any variety of such thing are the very same spouses who find themselves in the same boat a few years down the road.

I know also that this realization has created a shield of doubt for me, in that I cannot help but think the moment I stop doubting, the moment I stop questioning will be the same moment that I am setting myself up to be hurt again.

I’ve questioned, would leaving my marriage allow me to let go of this fear? And, the truth is that the only way to never have this fear again is to be alone for the rest of my life, to not have an intimate relationship with another human. I don’t want that. Relationships are always a risk. I do love my husband and I do see him doing all he can to limit those risks. I guess I just keep working on me, to know I will be ok no matter what happens, and then take the rest day-by-day. I don’t know. I wish I had a crystal ball. I wish I had the answers. That is the one thing of which I have no doubt, I do not have all the answers. Ugh!

Wishing to change the past

I recently wrote about the “if onlys.”  That was inspired by lesson two of John Baker’s Stepping Out of Denial.   I’ll continue with Baker’s questions.

Baker says:  “Instead of worrying about things that we cannot control, we need to focus on what God can do in our lives. What are you worrying about? Why?”  I don’t know about this statement.  What’s God doing in it?  Rather than God, it seems like the statement ought to say that we should focus on what we ourselves can do in our daily lives.  Then, this discussion would make more sense to me.

Before D-day, I think I did worry about certain things I could not control instead of focusing on things I could control.  I worried about my past experiences, or lack thereof. I should have told myself that my past experiences were not only immutable, but also far less important to the present and future than I believed them to be.

As for today, I do think I have successfully stopped worrying about the past or about immutable conditions.  Yes, I do sometimes worry about the future.  But, a certain amount of worrying about the future is normal, as long as I focus on ways I can affect the future rather than just worrying about things that are inevitable or unknowable.

Responsibility

Upon reflection, I admit that asking TL for a second opinion on whether I should have a drink was an attempt to avoid responsibility for my own decision.  Implicating someone else in the decision could allow me to blame that person rather than myself for the consequences of my decision.  It’s a bad habit, and I will work to stop it.

The decision whether to drink a beer is rather insignificant by itself. There was, of course, one very significant, negative case when I evaded responsibility by refusing to make, and commit to, a decision.  I think I evaded committing to monogamous marriage, essentially telling myself I would play by the rules when under scrutiny and break the rules when I believed I could get away with it. Obviously, I should have either kept my promise of faithfulness to TL or not made such a promise.

It’s not possible to enjoy the beer without also slowing my mind and body temporarily and adding worthless calories permanently.  It’s similarly impossible to enjoy the benefits of loving monogamous marriage while violating its tenets.  The child’s way to forgive myself for making certain decisions, so to speak, in the beer example is to blame someone else for my decision not to enjoy the beer, or my decision to add the worthless calories to my waistline.

In the marriage example, I forgave myself for my poor decision by making no decision whatsoever, by setting up the possibility of taking both paths but not committing to either one.  When unhappy about my inability to have extramarital sex, I blamed my marriage.  And, when unhappy about lack of closeness with my spouse I blamed her, rather than my own lack of commitment to the marriage.

What can I learn from this?  Make decisions, or not, and take responsibility for their consequences. If I order the same thing TL orders in a restaurant, I do not blame her if the meal turns out too fattening, costly, or tasteless.  If I don’t get sex tonight, I don’t blame her for not being in the mood. I recognize my role in creating the mood.  If I drink a whisky after the kids go to bed, I won’t implicate anyone else in the consequences to my waistline or alertness.  In short, I’ll strive to take responsibility.

Yes, I can look back to my parents and how they failed to teach me responsibility.  But, especially at age forty-six, I am responsible for learning responsibility. I am responsible for learning to grow up.

Have the damn beer already.

So, I am now working from home. In an attempt to not allow myself distraction, I’ve created a log-in on my computer that is separate for work. I have not saved passwords to all my favorite distractions on this separate log-in, so don’t have easy access during work times. It is working out quite well. School starts up again next week. Trying to manage both is going to be difficult, so probably even less time in the netherworld than even now. But, maybe that is not such a bad thing.

A recent struggle is becoming more apparent. Perhaps minor, perhaps something more substantive is needed.  But, while I have the chance to talk with our blogging friends, I thought I would. So, here it is:

Our youngest gets on a topic and focuses on it for months at a time before moving on to the next topic of interest. He started asking “Why does Daddy treat you like G-d?” Or, “why do you treat Mommy like G-d?” “That’s going to make G-d angry.” Or, after reading a book on wolves, “Mommy is alpha and Daddy is omega.” Or, “Daddy is Mommy’s minion.”

You get the picture. I want a partner and an equal, not a minion. Our older child knows what happened, generally, not specifically, and MC had a big talk with him at the time of my zombie existence. Our youngest, however, was just not so aware of it all. It does make me sad that most memories he has were of the post d-day Mommy, not the pre d-day Mommy. Anyway, after repeating the same refrain again, MC finally had a talk with him, just before the Superbowl. MC basically said something along the lines of. . .

Daddy hurt Mommy a lot and acted like a selfish little boy, but now he is working hard to be a good daddy, a good husband and a good man. Part of that is being a kind, considerate, and loving husband and father. Part of that is helping Mommy to fulfill some of her dreams that she put aside for so many years to help me with mine.

So, we are watching the Superbowl with the kids and MC asked me, “should I have a beer?” I replied, “have one if you want one, it’s up to you.” He persisted, “what do you think I should do?”

“WTF, why the hell are you asking me?” I wanted to say that to him, but with the kids there it was a toned down version. It seemed to me he wanted me to convince him that it was OK to have a beer. I really don’t give a flying fuck if he has a beer. But, I ended up laying it all out for him, all the things he already knew. We have a ton of beer left over from a 2014 party, I don’t think we are supposed to ship it with us when we move overseas, it is the SuperBowl, and we were staying home the rest of the night. Why did I even do that? Pretty much laying out the case, when I don’t even care if he has one or not.

I am not sure what this all indicates, but it is not sitting well with me.

Real Life

Sorry, I’ve not written in a while. Things have been busy.  In the meantime, among other things, I talked with B about the denial in which I took refuge before D-day; denial that I was leading a double life, with conflicting pursuits, thoughts, and behaviors; and denial that I was bringing unconscionable risks to TL and ours kids.  I’ve written about denial before here.  But, now, after that particular talk about risks, I think I finally understand denial fully. It is simply shocking to me to realize how deeply I was in denial before D-day.  My goal now is to keep up the courage to stay out here in the real world rather than hiding in denial.

In fact, we recently re-watched an old Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in which a character played by Dwight Schultz was compulsively using the holo-deck to fantasize.  His cowardice about staying in the real world and accepting reality was suddenly frighteningly familiar.  His attempt to wish his life away in fantasies reminded me of another character:  Don Quixote.  I was so obsessed with wishing I could be a Don Juan that I became Don Quixote.

Never again.  Every moment of every day is now an exercise in appreciating the real world. My fantasies began as adolescent day dreaming and evolved into a double life.  I sometimes created little sci-fi or other fiction stories in my head as I fell asleep.  In those fantasies, I could play the part of the hero, who was successful, strong, and attractive.

They have to stop.  They have stopped.  As I get older and closer to death, it’s easier to see the urgency of living in this real life, while it lasts.  Let me be happy or sad, alive or dead, successful or not in this reality, not just in some fantasy that could just as easily have come from a television or video game as from a double life.