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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7 thoughts on “Creating loneliness 

  1. Hi MC,
    I am not totally familiar with all the blog posts of TL and you but I am trying to catch up. Thank you both!
    About the therapist: that hit a nerve. I worked with a male client whose wife had an affair. I understood more about it than he did and I knew about it before he was ready to see it, and I tried to let him discover (in his own pace) what was happening. He dropped out, when he was planning to do something he knew was going to be detrimental, but he wanted to do it anyway. I guessed it…it is hard being a therapist and guiding clients but not telling them what to do or what not to do, while sort of knowing….
    This is the thing…therapists do not have that power. A client (or in the U.S a “patient”) often avoids therapy when they most need it and when they do not want to listen or are not ready to listen. They are fully entitled: it is their life. You are right and it sucks. I am there when my clients pick up the pieces….the hurt that is done and cannot be undone and I knew it was happening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the dialogue. Discussion is really something we want and need.

      Maybe a cleric can be more directive than a therapist. But, the client always has the option of not listening. In either case, the good news for me is that I finally find it imperative to listen. It, of course, took almost losing everything to push me to this point.

      Also, I finally find myself deeply appreciating motivational or moral-laden comments I come across in daily life, from everyday leaders and thinkers. I see that spending a few moments daily contemplating a thoughtful (many are not) prayer, quote, or parable is like exercise for good mental health.

      I believe now that I should approach mental health the same way I approach physical fitness and nutrition. I work out regularly and always watch my diet. So, why shouldn’t I train my moral being and always watch my self-talk too? I think this is what religion could do for us, if approached thoughtfully (often it is not).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I ‘ve already mentioned this to MC, but one thing that strikes me is that he is missing something here. The biggest thing is that he tells a story of when he dated a girl, a virgin, and had wanted sex from her (this was high school) and she refused. They eventually broke up.

    Regarding this story, my understanding is that he worked full-time at a grocery store while going to HS, largely so he could get out of his house and not have his Mom question it. Interesting set-up of a pattern, isn’t it?

    Second, the ex-GF came to the store one day and told him that she finally had sex, but with one of his friends, “guess, guess who it is?” He couldn’t, she told him, he knew of the guy but not really a friend. Anyway, the ex was now ready to have sex with him. He refused.

    So, I asked him “why did you refuse? If it was about sexual experiences, well here you go, a freebie.” It comes down to that his self-pity and ego were more important to him. He’s writing about this. More to come on this from MC. . .

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  3. I’ve been reading your very fearless story and have been wondering two things.

    First, for TL — pre-D Day, why exactly did you stay in an unequal partnership where you were marginalized, diminished, and discounted? What would have been the tipping point between things you were willing to put up with versus things that crossed the line? Do you think any gender role stereotyping played into that on your own part? Did you feel like your wants, needs, desires, potential was as important as that of others? Do you feel that way now? Would you stop someone from crossing a boundary or acting incorrectly towards yourself alone now, sans children or others being directly impacted?

    And for MC — how do you feel now about what you categorized as quasi Victorian values of fetishizing a virgin/inexperienced partner? Is that still something you see as desirable, even if not for you in this life? Do you still place value in that structure, or have your thoughts and wants changed? Do you feel you value an equal sexual partnership now? What about the dehumanizing of the individuals you sought out for sex? Do you still feel like they are objects?

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    1. Lee, Such good questions!!! If you don’t mind, I’m going to have to work through this a bit. Hopefully, I will answer your questions as I work to clarify my thoughts and feelings on your questions. So, here we go:

      Pre-D Day, why exactly did you stay in an unequal partnership where you were marginalized, diminished, and discounted?

      Before dating MC, I had seen myself as a strong, independent woman, capable of doing anything I set my mind toward doing. Actually, it was my Dad who saw me this way and I saw me this way through his eyes. When he died, I lost that and had to find where his image of me ended and the reality of me began. I struggled to do that. I looked to find it in pride from what I had been through and still accomplished. I told myself that I was proud of putting myself through college with no help from any family. I was proud, too proud, of surviving so many childhood struggles, surviving a life with little stability. So proud that I actually thought it meant I had paid my dues and that would be the foundation of a beautiful life ahead.

      When I was younger, I saw my mom as a very weak woman who would not stand up for herself or us kids and tell my dad to get his fucking act together, stop moving us around, stop running from bill collectors, and take a job with a steady paycheck, instead of the BS commission crap he always ended up taking. I saw her as a weak woman who was hiding behind drugs (I knew far more names of opiates than any 12 year old should know). I was very close to my dad in many ways, but when my parents were together I told him all the things that I thought my mom should be saying to him. At the same time, I idealized in my head what a “real” family should look like and I saw that (or thought I saw it in my Aunt and Uncle’s family). I did finally go live with them when I was 16, but as close as I was to them, closer than any other outsider, I was still an outsider. I longed to be loved, to be a full part of a family as an equally important part of that family, to know that they loved me as much as I loved them. I still thought love was something that I could earn, that I had to earn – it was really fucked up and something I brought into my marriage.

      When MC and I started dating, he seemed so caring and thoughtful at first. I thought I was finally going to have that loving family with MC. I think a part of me also thought/hoped he would have pride in me the way my father did. That was a big mistake for many reasons. First, I needed to learn to see myself through my own eyes. And, second, MC did not take pride in me the way my father had, in fact it turns out he was intimidated by the very strengths that I had thought he loved about me. I discovered after marriage that his ego was easily bruised by anything I did better than him, especially anything counter to typical gender stereotypes. I’ve had a really hard time with forgiving myself for walking away from learning to see myself through my own eyes, from hiding my strengths and fearing his ego. I am still trying to figure out how and why I exactly allowed that to happen. I think it was a bit like a frog, starting off in cold water, slowly being brought to a boil.

      What would have been the tipping point between things you were willing to put up with versus things that crossed the line?

      I think I realized I was reaching a tipping point before d-day. The tipping point was building over the years. Like I said, I think I was like a frog in cold water slowly being brought to a boil. After my mom died, I was shocked to find that I was having a difficult time with that loss. A year before her death, I had become a valued member of my children’s PTO, while MC seemed to not really notice or care about any of it. He was neither there as support in my sorrow, nor as my friend in my successes. It was the convergence of these realizations that made me start to realize I was sitting in a pot of hot water, though I had no idea just how hot it had become, not until D-day.

      Do you think any gender role stereotyping played into that on your own part?

      I hate to admit it, but possibly. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. When, many years ago, this overseas opportunity came available that would allow us to see and explore the greater world together, take care of all of our basic needs, but severely limit my career options, I knew it meant being a stay-at-home was a very real possibility. I will always love so much about the expat life and I still think it is wonderful to be able to be a stay-at-home-mom if possible. But, I regret not understanding sooner that being an expat spouse, being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean losing yourself into the role of only a mom to our children and MC’s spouse. So, perhaps, some innate gender bias did exist? More than that, though, I needed to learn to see myself through my own eyes. I am still learning how to do that. Working on the PTO was a wonderful and eye opening experience that allowed me to realize again that I do have my own strengths and can make positive contributions in my own right, not just to MC’s career. It was the start of admitting, discovering and exploring that I do have my own wants, needs, desires, and potential.

      Did you feel like your wants, needs, desires, potential was as important as that of others?

      Part of this overseas life, did put me in a position of MC’s spouse more than anything else. I accepted that his success would be my success, that being the “woman behind the man” was a meaningful contribution, that being a mom and having the family I always wanted was that important and that it would all be enough. I did not comprehend just how diminished I had become.

      Do you feel that way now?

      I now think that I cannot be half a person, half a couple, but that we each need to be whole individuals before we can be a whole and healthy couple. I am still finding my way on this!

      Would you stop someone from crossing a boundary or acting incorrectly towards yourself alone now, sans children or others being directly impacted?

      Now, for better or worse, I stand up. I don’t let things slide. Yet, I do try to be considerate of others views, but I just cannot let things slide like I once did. I still get nervous and fearful about standing up, but I know that I will feel very down if I don’t make sure my voice is included and heard, so I don’t allow myself to be a victim of that fear. I feel more authentic. Not everyone always likes me (for some reason I used to think that was so important), but now I am me and that does not change to accommodate others, including MC!

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    2. Lee, thanks for the question. I value the fact that you’ve paid enough attention to ask a meaningful question. Responding to questions is as much a learning experience for me as it is answering inquiries.

      What I struggle to convey is that I was a walking paradox, like two people in one body. I feel like my own mind was a battleground. No, I don’t mean schizophrenia or anything that diagnosable. I mean inner cultural conflict. Again, it’s like that old Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk was divided into his “good” self and his “evil” self. Those two selves — those two wolves — struggled within me. Lately, I’ve been trying to feed the good wolf, at the expense of the bad.

      As a younger man, before D-day, I was seduced by my own bad wolf. I felt sorry for it. I felt comforted by it, because it seemed easier to comprehend. It seemed less threatening. At the exact same time, with my same mind and same body, I hated my bad wolf. I looked down on it. I felt haunted and plagued by it. I wanted to excise it.

      Does that make sense? In this analogy, my bad wolf was the Victorian-style sexual stereotypes, perhaps not unlike those held by certain Muslim, Christian, ultra-Orthodox Jewish, or other youth who struggle to reconcile those views with a more cosmopolitan milieu where they attend work or school and meet normal, modern women and girls. My good wolf was the me who wanted to be modern and progressive, and to live in the world my modern education had made visible.

      How do I feel about that bad wolf? I’m trying to tame it, to keep it in check. Do I see it as desirable? In most ways, I always hated it, and was ashamed of it. Now, after all the damage it has caused, it is clearly undesirable. Have I changed my thoughts and wants? I’ve worked very hard to feel and show appreciation for the modern, cosmopolitan world I sought. I’ve worked very hard to free myself from the bad wolf. How? Some of the ingredients are humility, gratitude, appreciation, and compassion.

      Do I value an equal sexual partnership? I always have, in some ways. In other ways, however, I’ve had to gradually teach myself, with much help from others, to have the courage to live in sexual equality. That’s an important point, I think. Living according to Victorian sexual values is the sanctuary of weak and cowardly men, men who are threatened by modern women. Living in sexual equality takes much more courage, and more genuine self-confidence and self-esteem.

      Of dehumanizing affair partners and prostitutes for sex, I can feel nothing but regret. It’s not regret for what I did to them — though it ought to be, I suppose — as much as it is regret for hurting my wife and for being such an immature, selfish person, a person I cannot be proud to have been. Do I feel like they were objects? I really don’t think about them now, unless forced to do so. Of course I regret my hurtful actions and my childish ways. But, the way I seek to address that now is to focus on treating my wife, and all other people in my life — including myself — with respect.

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