Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Wall

And, I don’t mean by Pink Floyd or anything paid for by Mexico.

I keep a wall between me and vulnerability. I am not ready yet to let down that wall. I know that it keeps me away from experiencing the full colors of life, fully giving and receiving love, fully experiencing joy. While the wall cannot protect me from all pain, it does protect me from experiencing any new pain to the fullest extent that vulnerability would allow.

Over the last weeks, I will often tell myself as I lay down to sleep, tomorrow, just for one day, I am going to climb over that wall. Just for one day I am going to freely laugh and love, just for one day I am going to allow joy without reminding myself that pain is the equal and opposite reaction. Maybe, just maybe, for one day I will forgive and see what happens. It is just one day, how hard can that be?

And, then, the morning comes. And, it is still too hard. I do hope to get there. I do think the one-day-at-a-time method will be the mostly likely way to test those waters. I’m just not quite ready.

Morning addition:  In the morning light I do think for me to truly be able to start being vulnerable I need to have more confidence in MC being actively vulnerable, as opposed to passively vulnerable.

On the other hand, as I was just lamenting to him the other day (see his swimming pool/ocean analogy), I need my healing not to be tethered or dependent upon his.

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Image found here.

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Failure of the decision-making process

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So, MC and I often take evening walks together. It is a chance for us to talk. Often times we talk about ideas, thoughts, theories, politics, science, news, etc. Often, the topic is “our” topic and looking at some of the underlying factors from a more academic point-of-view.

Recently, MC and I were discussing the “two-wolves within each of us” story and an article from the NIH site, and we saw how these fit together with each other as well as with some pre-existing thoughts and ideas.

Here is what we’ve been tossing around. This was a collaborative process, but since MC is traveling, I posted it. This was just our bouncing ideas back and forth together, but we wondered if others might feel something similar has occurred?

Like the two wolves within us, there are two parts of the decision-making mechanism within us. Henden, Melberg and Rogeberg (2013) explained the decision making process is composed of two phases. The first, phase-one, is based on impulses and acting on those impulses. The second, phase-two, is based on making healthy, rational and sound decisions. Phase-two is actually the control mechanism that helps us resist those impulsive thoughts, ideas and urges (Henden, Melberg and Rogeberg, 2013).

When growing-up MC had the phase-two of that decision-making process done for him by his mother. He resented that and, in turn, resented that part of the decision-making process on many levels. He never fully learned to do it for himself. He even looked to me to do it for him. Funny thing is, I never wanted that job! Regardless, prior to d-day, he surreptitiously went for all the things he told himself he had been wrongly denied in his life. He told himself he was owed those experiences he was “denied.” He chose to let self-pity rule, allowing this perceived injustice to guide and rule his decision-making process. Essentially, seeking the impulsive and not allowing phase-two to regulate and overcome certain phase-one impulses (i.e., those areas where  he felt he was denied and owed something).

Now, he sees it with clarity. He wants to change it and strengthen phase-two of the decision making process into an instinctive, natural and stronger part of himself, that he does for himself. His mother denied him the chance to learn that for himself as a normal child can and should learn to do for themselves. He could use that fact as another point of self-pity, but that helps nothing and only perpetuates that continuation of phase-one dominating (feeding the bad wolf). Instead, just recognizing that fact, understanding the weakness and working on building up and strengthening phase-two (feeding the good wolf) of the decision making process, while not allowing self-pity to have a place at the table, is the goal.

References

Henden, E., Melberg, H., & Røgeberg, O. (2013). Addiction: Choice or Compulsion? Frontiers in Psychiatry4, 77. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00077

Unknown author. (n.d.) Tale of two wolves. Retrieved from http://www.oneyoufeed.net/tale-of-two-wolves/

Wolves image retrieved from https://arxangelo.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/cff382357bd0.jpg

Ugh!

MC is traveling on a short trip tomorrow. Trying to be ok with it. He has really limited the travel, but I know that this time it is unavoidable. Still, I don’t have to be happy about it. Of most concern, is not so much the trigger that travel is for me (though ask me again tomorrow). This time it is more about Murphy’s Law.

Both the dog and I seem to be suffering from some major stomach ailment. MC and I were up at 3 AM with the old pup, getting her outside, drinking water and steam cleaning the carpet after the mess she made. Poor pup. We will make it through. Just hope both the dog and I are better before he actually takes off. By the looks of things, I’m not sure that is likely. Ugh!

What if he pulls the plug?

TL recently spoke of wanting to give her healing its own trajectory, independent of mine, so that I won’t drag her down when I experience my own ups and downs on my sea of healing. I had a little trouble fully understanding it, until I created a metaphor.

TL and I are in a swimming pool.  We call the pool “reconciliation.”  Some days I float atop the water, happy and relaxed.  Other days I struggle to tread water.  Similarly, some days TL floats happily, and other days she struggles to stay afloat.

There is a single, large drain at the bottom of the pool.  A sturdy plug stops the drain, preventing the water, and us, from draining away into the nearby ocean.  Actually, when I look at the plug, I see a heavy, strong plug that can’t be knocked out accidentally by rough waters or inadvertent motions, and probably can’t be moved by one person.  However, when TL looks at the same plug, she sees a lightweight, cheaply-made piece of plastic that could easily be accidentally  dislodged by turbulent waters or by a single person behaving carelessly.  Which of us is right?  Who knows?  That’s a subject of frequent discussion between us.

The ocean is called “divorce.”  If I got sucked through the drain into the ocean, I could probably swim just fine.  But, I wouldn’t necessarily be so close to TL.  I would miss her.  TL is a strong swimmer too, and she’s getting stronger.  She’s a bit worried about sharks out there.  But, she would get along fine out there in the ocean.

We both want to stay together in the pool.  TL wants to be able to relax in the pool.  Instead, she keeps worrying.  Every time I dip my head below water, she fears I’ll somehow knock the plug out of the drain.  I feel very confident that the drain is secure.  I try not to scare TL by dipping my head below the water.  But, sometimes I simply can’t avoid a quick dip beneath the surface.  I’m trying to become better at floating on the surface.  But, it worries TL when she sees me still working on it.

So, there’s the dilemma for TL.  She wants to relax and float in the pool, but she can’t stop worrying about me and that drain.

State of Nature

I often see discussion in the infidelity blogosphere aimed at identifying some condition or ailment that compelled adulterers to cheat and lie.  This diagnostic quest strikes me as backwards.  I think of Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature, in which all are in competition against all, and life is “nasty, brutish, and short.”  Living beings would exist this way in the absence of some organizing system such as family, pack, tribe, or society.  It’s not that there is some ailment or condition compelling the competition of all against all.  It is the pre-existing and normal state.

Civilization, interdependence, and perhaps love and compassion are the antidotes to this state of nature.  I believe that in most cases people don’t move, psychologically, away from civilization, interdependence, love, and compassion due to some condition or ailment.  Rather, they stay in a metaphorical state of nature because they fail to acquire the ingredients of civilization, interdependence, love, and compassion.  Have you read Lord of the Flies?

I also see our late, great Belgian Shepard as an example of this.  I think we’ve described before how she was loving to us but sounded aggressive to some strangers.  She was cowardly.  She did have a traumatic puppyhood.  But, her problem was not that her troubled youth caused her to lose the quiet canine confidence that makes for a well-behaved dog.  Rather, her problem was a failure to acquire the courage necessary to behave properly. We never invested the time and energy it would have required to modify our dog’s behavior.

I hear betrayed spouses asking, “What’s wrong with my poor, traumatized adulterous mate? Why can’t he cope properly?  What about his troubled youth caused him to behave this way?  Why must he cope through adultery?”  That’s the wrong question.  They should be asking, “What’s right about me?  What’s right about me, that allowed me to remain faithful regardless of any difficulties I may have experienced?”

The adulterous spouse does not need to be coddled and “cured.”  Rather, he needs to learn some things he should have learned long ago.  If I am physically weak, I cannot remove weakness from my body.  But, I can add muscle mass, stamina, and agility.  That reduces weakness.  If I am academically weak, I cannot remove stupidity from my mind.  But, I can add education and intellectual rigor to my life.  Doing so reduces ignorance, and potentially alleviates stupidity.

So, what does the adulterous spouse need to acquire?  He needs to acquire responsibility:  acceptance that he must either change things he does not like, or stop indulging in self-pity.  He needs to take responsibility for his own happiness, and stop blaming his spouse, his mother, other people, or God.  He needs to take responsibility for his own happiness, and stop hoping that someone will join him in pitying him and grant him happiness as some cosmic act of mercy or justice.  I speak from personal experience on this point.

Second, the adulterous spouse needs to acquire an understanding of love.  Love is not the hope that my mate will meet my needs.  Rather, my love is my hope for the best for my mate, regardless of my needs.  Love is not my expectation that my mate will be perfect for me.  Rather, it is my complete acceptance of her, regardless of perfection or imperfection.

Those are the two most important things he ought to acquire.  He would also do well to acquire compassion, empathy, listening skills, and sincere concern for something greater than himself.

I’m trying to nurture my positive, loving skills, and, in so doing, to exorcise my negative, self-centered instincts. I’m feeding the good wolf.  You know that story, right?  Two wolves fight for dominance within us, one good, one evil.  The young boy asks his grandfather which will win.  The older man answers, “The one you feed.”  As you feed the good wolf, by the way, you are simultaneously starving the bad wolf.

Many the Miles

School is done. On the road today. 

Thought I would share a favorite song. The kids don’t really want it on repeat for the car ride. 😉

I probably have a different take on it than the song intends. When I hear “how far do I have to go to get to you?” I hear that question as asking myself about how far to find myself.

I just LOVE this song. . .

Many the Miles

Purpose and beauty

I want to be that strong, independent and healthy woman that I wanted my mother to be, that I always thought I would be. Regardless of what happens with MC, this is my goal.

While it is true that I no longer believe in “happily ever after” nor  in the idea that going through the most awful things somehow inoculates you from experiencing awful things in your future.  I do recognize that life has and will continue to have its ups and its downs and its all arounds. Within that reality,  I can find purpose and beauty. Within that reality, I must choose to find purpose and beauty.

Life is Amazing

Finding me

As I read and reread the poem I posted yesterday, a sense of the kid I once was just comes flooding into my heart and mind.

I remember why that poem meant so very much to me. I’ve told much of this foo history before, but it is so central to finding who I was, who I am and who I want to be. 

Like too many out there, my childhood was not great. My mother was mentally ill, heavily dosed on anti-depressenats that she “needed” more and more of each year, and addicted to opiates. My father, though emotionally present in many ways, was unable to hold a job for long and always chose jobs that were commission based, be your own boss type of things, thinking that was the best way to make money.

We were on and off of welfare, food stamps and evicted from almost every home I had ever lived in with them. They divorced when I was in high school. I let guilt guide me in choosing with whom to live, thinking somebody needed to take care of Mom and that somebody would be me.

Actually, when I really think about this, I think in some ways I bought into the idea that my mom was the way she was because of her marriage to my dad. They were bad for each other. They were dragging each other down into an abyss. And, I think I wanted to believe that being on her own, with me by her side, she would be the strong woman I thought she should be. I could help, I would help her to be the independent, strong and healthy woman I needed her to be. She would then be capable of being the loving mom I always wanted, needed and believed was possible. Wow, that was hard to admit to myself,  that is a new realization for me. Whoa!  And, yes, I see it! I know I cannot do that for MC. The whole point of being strong, independent and healthy is that it exists outside of the vacuum of external pressures forcing your hand. That is what I need to see from MC, that is what I never saw from my mom. 

Within a year, my mother kicked me out because I would not enable her to continue with the victim mentality under which she lived for so long. She consistently continued to make bad choices and I was not going to be a part of that anymore. I started to understand my mom wanted to be the victim and was a master at manipulating those around her. For whatever reason, she thought I would come crawling back, begging for her to let me come home. I did NOT! Instead, I went to live with extended family for a couple years until I could escape to college. My mom’s sister took me in. They didn’t really want a third child, could not really afford a third child and my mom accused them of stealing me away, so my aunt also was dealing with some guilt issues. I lived in their back room, which was a storage/laundry room. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the option I had available. I was on the edge of their inner circle, closer to them than most, but not their child. I used to dream for that to be different. I was a good student and knew college was my way out. Of all the fears in the world that I had at that time, becoming my mom was (and in many ways still is) my greatest fear. That poem said what my heart needed to hear. It meant so very much to me.

After my Dad died unexpectedly just after my first year of college, I was so lost. He was always my emotional support, even if he was unable to provide stability and financial support. He thought I would conquer the world, and I believed him. I believed him. Sorry crying. . .The day he died, a part of me died with him. I did not intend for that to happen, but it did. I lost his vision of me and I did not know how to find it within myself. I forgot about that poem, I forgot about the meaning of those words. They are meaningful to me once again.

This may meander as a brainstorm some thoughts here. . .We often hear of family of origin (foo) issues being fundamental to cheaters desire to cheat. I have a difficult time with that. I am not saying that childhood traumas are not difficult and I am not saying that such traumas do not impact our ability to cope. Yet, I cannot help but think, “Well then, why am I not a cheater?” These issues certainly need to be addressed, but cheating is still a choice. I truly am trying to understand.

The only thing I can come up with is that I spoke my mind to my parents. My Dad knew that I thought he should get a job with a salary and benefits and stop with the commission-based shit. My Mom knew that I did not approve of her addiction to prescription drugs. I did not cower, I was not quiet. We had some terrible fights and I did not shy away from those fights. So, perhaps that is the difference. I don’t know.

Then I think about MC and how I let fear of bruising his ego become center to me and my choices. What the hell happened there? Where did I go? That is not the TL that I was as a kid. Where did she go? I don’t want her gone anymore. Since d-day I have been working so hard to find her. Except this time, through my own eyes, my very much older and, hopefully, wiser eyes. I see glimpses.

A Psalm of Life

I first read this poem in high school so many years ago. It was a favorite.  I just came across it again today and was struck by how the message is as relevant today as it was back then.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.

 

Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
   Was not spoken of the soul.

 

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.

 

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.

 

In the world’s broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!

 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!

 

Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;

 

Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.

 

Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.

First things first, I’m a realist

Ok, so our kids love that song, most likely because of the Jimmy Fallon Lip Sync battle with Emma Stone that they saw on YouTube. But, that specific line just fits well here.

When we created this site, we did so with a theme in mind. In the last few days I articulated that theme in a way that I had not really been able to do before.

I know many see the name of our site and think it means something different than it does. I thought the words of recent days were worth posting to give texture to the meaning we did intend.

Reconcile4Life meaning:

If the marriage ends, it is easy to be definitive, IT IS OVER, no more definitive than that. But, it doesn’t work that way with reconciliation, does it? That is the thing with reconciling. Successful reconciliation is a marriage long process, not a line in the sand. While progress can be seen over the years, you cannot really declare success in the middle of the journey. Well, I suppose you could, but I wouldn’t suggest it. Declare progress, recognize progress, of course. Declare success, not until the end of our life together can I make that evaluation.

I keep thinking of President Bush standing on the aircraft carrier declaring success, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” after getting Sadaam Hussein. It led many of us to believe that now we could relax, the major battles had been fought and won. Yet, nothing could have been further from the truth. If you choose to go into something like that, success is just not that finite, clear and easy. I mean we may say look at Germany and Japan, these are our success stories after WWII. But, don’t forget we have a huge presence in those countries still. It wasn’t like, win a battle, declare victory, all is good now, time to move on.

And, then out in the reconciliation world, especially out in the forums, I would see things from people declaring “we are happily reconciled,” “we are living our happily ever after” or “I know he has learned his lesson and will never ever do this again.” You don’t know, you cannot know. You can see progress, you can have proof along the way that all is going in a good direction, but start declaring finite “success” and what happens, both parties take their eye off the ball and it is exactly these folks who end up exactly back where they started wondering where their second chance at a fantasy went wrong.

The fantasy is gone for me forever, I want it gone, I don’t want a life based on fantasy. It’s a path, it’s a journey, we need to keep our eye on the path, on the journey. That doesn’t mean I want to be bleeding from gaping wounds along the path. I don’t. I can’t. That would make the journey impossible to continue upon. I suppose this all sounds so depressing to some, but to me it is the point. No more fantasy, no more rose-colored glasses, not gray either, just clear and real and forward.

Good enough to stay or bad enough to leave?

Yesterday, MR asked me “You love him but is your relationship good enough to stay? Or is it bad enough to leave?”

That was a new way to put it, a new perspective from which to look. My answer is that I feel in limbo on that question. Some days I lean heavily in one direction, some days the other, some I’m just walking the line.

You know MC has done so very much since d-day. Actively taking steps for me, for our family and to address many of his core issues. This incident was a let down to say the least! And, even still, before this incident happened I would say I saw him ALLOWING himself to be vulnerable with opportunities that clearly arose. These last few days I see him pursuing being vulnerable. I don’t know exactly how to explain the difference, but it is there. I think this made it clear that there was still a few bricks left in his wall, bricks of fear and he was letting them slow and filter his sharing of all with me instantly. These last few days those bricks have been gone. He is not even letting fear have the chance to get in the way. So, I’m taking it in. I think it is somehow a difference between passive vulnerability and active vulnerability.

I do love him and I really don’t want to leave him. But, I also need to stop bleeding. There is no crystal ball, no matter what. Last night I told him it is hard for me to dream of any future any more because I know more bad things in my life will happen. I know. I don’t mean because of him, but there is no way that life won’t throw something else my way, his way, our way, everyone’s way at some point, THAT IS LIFE. Regardless of MC, I need to find my way back to living in spite of that fact. I would love my partner and friend there by my side as we face life, but that means full vulnerability from him (and what I am so scared to do, from me). Right now, seeing him actively pursue paving that road is a step in the right direction.

The Road to Sing Sing

I mentioned this quote in a comment yesterday, but thought it worthy of its own post. Prior to d-day, MC’s intentions were not good, were not honorable. I do believe his intent now is to be a healthy and safe person, man, father, friend and husband. At the end of the day, however, it takes so much more than good intentions.

The tragic evils of our life are so commonly unintentional. We did not start out for that poor, cheap goal. That aim was not in our minds at all. Of all the men who land in Sing Sing, who ever made Sing Sing his ideal? Not the ultimate intention but the means and the methods used lead to our Sing Sings. That’s why the road to hell is always paved with good intentions and that is why I am not celebrating high ideals, lofty aims, fine purposes, grand resolutions, but am saying instead that one of the most dangerous things in the world is to accept them and think you believe in them, and then neglect the day-by-day means that lead to them.

Ah, my soul, look to the road you are walking on! He who picks up one end of a stick picks up the other. He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the ends. – Harry Emerson Fosdick

Bleeding out

The kids and I are huge Imagine Dragon fans. I cannot help but think of the song “I’m bleeding out. . .” If you’ve been reading the blog, you know that over the last few days, we’ve been dealing with something of which I am trying to figure out how best to move forward. Here is my thinking today. . .

I do think MC really wants to change, I think he is trying to change, but the thing is that if I don’t feel safe in my present and future, I cannot heal. That’s how it is. We are set to move overseas this summer. All of us were/are so excited about that.

I know MC wants to be healthy, I know he wants to be a man of integrity. The question is, is he capable? If he can be healthy, then I can be with him. If not, then I just can’t be with him.

Then I wonder, am I just delaying the inevitable? Perhaps just taking the kids HOME this summer, getting a place near family, and starting over would just get this show on the road.

Since D-day, MC is so involved with the kids, with me, and home life and family, in a way he never was before. He is an active present participant in our lives and we love that, all of us love that! And, the kids and I going HOME means we really won’t see MC but once/year for a few weeks at a time. That makes me so very sad. So, I have this scale in my head. On one side is the sadness of being away from MC. On the other side is my fear of staying and being hurt. And, I don’t just mean hurt from if he cheated again – that would be such a clear done deal. But, the hurt that comes from the fact that he is still learning, making mistakes, fumbling the ball and each time that happens my wounds that may be in the healing stages, get picked at and begin to bleed. I’m tired of bleeding!

No Try: Just Do It

Not in a good place right now, don’t even have the words (well apparently I do, see more below). I am in the midst of my final project for my Masters degree due in two weeks, while also working that new job. All I can say is that the words of MWS and IOH, in comments to MC’s post yesterday, are exactly the conversation that has been happening here. G-d, I just need to focus on my work, school and the kids, and yet. . .

I think what I am trying to work through in my mind is:
Should I give credence to the fact that he caught himself and came clean; not holding onto the mirage for weeks, months, years? While he admitted all within 10 minutes of the conversation, it took him two days to admit that what he had done was try to lie to me, wanting to hold on to the idea that he was trying to remember what happened, was simply thinking out loud as he figured it out. Of course, my reply, “that is the thing with the truth, you don’t have to fucking figure it out. Doh!”

Is this a setback or a deal breaker? I just don’t know. I just don’t know.
Is this miles ahead of who he used to be? Yes.
Is it good enough? HELL NO!
Is he trying? Yes.
Are trying and doing the same thing? NO! Yoda wearing Nikes: There is no try! JUST DO IT!

I didn’t give a fuck about the click bait. Sure, I would have asked what are you doing to deal with this issue? What is your plan here? It is the fucking lying.

I have got to focus on kids, work and school. G-d, I just need to focus on kids, work and school right now!

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Falling off the honesty wagon

The other night TL got to talking about how, as I had mentioned before, I don’t feel a real sensation of temptation from an available woman.  That would take an added ingredient: entitled intent to sin, on my part.  However, I do actually feel temptation sometimes when I’m reading news on the Internet and some banner or advertising box says that clicking on it will show “women you won’t believe exist,” “celebrities in bikinis,” or whatever stupid thing the advertiser knows is sickly irresistible.

I told TL I struggled with those images.  She asked if I had ever clicked on them.  I said, “no.” We discussed it some more.  She asked again if I had ever clicked. I said, “Well, maybe,” or something half-hearted.  This continued until I had contradicted myself at least twice in 10 minutes.

I had lied.  I had fallen off the honesty wagon.  Despite my good intentions, I had succumbed to fear, fear of being honest.  This caused TL and I great anguish.  Hopefully, at least I learned from it.

I learned, again, that the beginning of the slippery slope is not necessarily just an available woman or a pornographic image.  It is anything I might experience, do, or think that I fear sharing with other people, particularly with TL.  Clicking on an Internet link claiming to show Kim Kardashian’s butt or “25 unbelievable women” may sound insignificant.  I may even ultimately turn away from it before becoming transfixed.  But, in fact, I must avoid it because it is like an entry-level drug.  More importantly, whether I click on it or not, I must tell TL, completely and quickly.  Why?  First, telling her will help defang the temptation and reinforce my will to resist in the future.

Second, telling her will build better neuro-pathways in my brain, pathways to make honesty and transparency a habit.  Every time I lie or withhold information I train my brain to lie and withhold information.  So, instead, I need to practice (just like practicing piano or batting a baseball) honesty and transparency so it eventually becomes reflexive, instinctive.  It worked for Pavlov’s canine.  It will work for me too.

I also learned that even as I become better at removing myself from the slippery slope, it is imperative to describe the entire experience, act, or thought to TL, immediately and in full detail.  Yes, I have successfully avoided porn for nearly four years.  But, telling TL about any occasion when I am tempted to click on a website and not tell anyone about it is important for demonstrating to her that I can overcome my fear of telling her.  In the case of porn, it is obvious to me that it is a sensitive topic that I must discuss with TL.  And, it will be easier for me now to recognize that gateways to porn should be discussed exactly as though they were porn, in that regard.

But, I also need to watch out for surprises, for anything, related to sex and porn or not, that I may be tempted to keep quiet.  TL suggested it might be useful to ask myself, before I do anything, whether I would do the same thing if TL was standing next to me.  I think that is a good tool.  I look forward to trying it.

Recovery Group for SOBs and their spouses

So, yesterday I talked a lot about what I DON’T want in a group. Here is what I would LOVE to find in a group:

  1. A BS/SOB joint group, with the BS and SOB each having a separate offshoot group from that joint group.
    1. There could be two options:
      1. in person meetings for those who share a geographic location; or
      2. Online meetings, using group meeting software
    2. The SOB group (former cheater) could be a men’s group, perhaps with a focus on being an accountability group.
    3. The BS group could be a trauma support group, but also helping each other to find positive paths forward each week. Keeping us accountable to our own recovery in a way.
  2. Each member couple truly starting at GROUND ZERO.
    1. How: All SOBs must complete a written timeline that covers from the start of the relationship to present, then must pass a polygraph.
    2. Why: There is no truly going forward in healing without starting at “Ground Zero.” Lies keep-up walls. Lies and omissions continue the pattern of hiding and shame.
  3. Each meeting could start off with something like:
    1. SOB: This week I want to recognize this cost of my actions to my BS.
    2. SOB/BS: This week I appreciated:
    3. SOB/BS: Next week I look forward to:

Well, that is all I’ve got so far. Help me out here people.

How I really feel!

I am open to the ideas of others and try to set aside my filters to truly listen to other view points. I do know that it is not easy to do, for any of us. Still, trying to predict what filters may be in place for others, trying to write to ensure that such filters do not get in the way of understanding, is too big of an expectation to put upon myself. After all, an important component to coming through this shit storm is that authenticity needs to be the guiding star on this journey. So, with that being said, here is how I really feel.

I am not a fan of the prevalent idea in the reconciliation community that most, if not all, serial cheaters are sex addicts (SA) and that such a diagnosis, accompanied by twelve-step, is the only path forward. In MC’s case, to make such a label fit would require too broad of a definition, overshadowing specific issues that needed to be targeted and addressed, specifically his (a) victim mentality, (b) excessive desire for external validation, (c) complete inability to self-validate, (d) fundamental misogynistic attitudes about what it takes to be a man and what is acceptable and desirable in a wife, (e) obsessive focus on himself, (f) obsessive focus on his self-pity and (g) avoidance of and cowardice toward conflict.

I do also see, time and again, those in SA twelve step programs being encouraged to, or at least not being discouraged from, using their shame and addiction as a shield from the anger of their spouse, as well as the potential of being guided by people who themselves are not healthy people. SA twelve-step and being there for the betrayed spouse do not have to be mutually exclusive, and yet, too often that is exactly what happens. Still, I also recognize that there is value to be found within a group setting.

As long as it doesn’t turn into another mechanism for reinforcing self-pity, a continuation of a victim-mentality, conflict-avoidance and self-absorbed pursuits, I can see value to a group dynamic to treatment and therapy. In fact, I think a sense of community and belonging to combat the isolation of both the cheater and betrayed is THE positive element of twelve-step.

But, I am bothered by the mantra that “AN SA DIAGNOSIS AND TWELVE-STEP ARE A MUST FOR RECOVERY.”  Sex addiction and twelve-step are one path, but not the only path. Why is that so threatening to some? We too want a sense of community to combat the isolation. It is part of the reason for this blog.

 

Shame

We often read in the blogosphere of some reconciling adulterer who is so overwhelmed by his (usually male, with a couple memorable exceptions) own shame that he doesn’t put much energy into helping his spouse, the victim.  I admit I’m always skeptical about these stories.  So, the cheater wasn’t too overwhelmed by shame to commit the adulterous acts, but suddenly shame rises within them and it prevents them from doing anything constructive to repair the damage they’ve done?  I am tempted to view this as a excuse for not moving forward and helping their spouse, and as a convenient shield to protect themselves from admonishment.  In effect, they’re saying, “Don’t worry about criticizing me, I’m already criticizing myself.  You couldn’t possibly get down on me more than I’m getting down on myself.  Don’t you feel for me?”

But, maybe my view of these stories is unfair.  I feel considerable shame for all the ways I lied and cheated.  If someone else had done even a few of the things I did, I would have piously held my nose in disgust and looked down on their moral failure.  Yes, it’s quite hypocritical.

So, why am I not debilitated by my shame?  I think it’s because I already spent decades allowing my feelings about the past to debilitate me, and I consequently almost destroyed my whole life and everything I truly value.  Also, if I were to obsess on my shame now, I would know damn good and well I was doing so by my own choice.  I no longer have the luxury of obsessing on myself.  If I want TL, my only option is to learn to think about her rather than just about myself.