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.)