Monthly Archives: April 2016

Masculinity and self-doubt

I had long struggled with doubts about my masculinity, particularly before D-day.  But, when I tried to discuss it with people they thought I was worrying about being feminine, homosexual, or androgynous.  Though there’s really nothing wrong with any of those things, they seemed completely irrelevant to what I was trying to discuss.  It may seem obvious, but it’s finally quite clear to me why we seemed to be talking about two different things.  “Being a man” is one phrase that has at least two different meanings.

I’ve long noticed that people often confuse the concepts of nationality, ethnicity, and religion. Sometimes we might say someone is, for example, Irish.  But, wait. That guy’s not from Ireland, yet you’re calling him Irish.  Why?  We’re using the same single word to describe both a nationality and an ethnicity.  Maybe for the latter, we should call that person Celtic instead of Irish, but we often don’t.

A similar confusion is possible when someone speaks of “being a man” or “being a woman.” Yes, the opposite of man is woman.  And, the opposite of the popular connotation of “manly” is “effeminate.”  But, in the other definition of “man,” it is part of a spectrum where the opposite end of the spectrum is “boy” or “child.”

Why is this important to me?  I really do need to “be a man” to feel better about myself. Striving to “be a man” according to the first definition of the term led me to some unhealthy choices.  I went about trying to prove my masculinity through sexual experience, honesty and integrity be damned.  Failing to “be a man” according to the latter definition also led to poor choices, such as letting my mother interfere, failing to protect my wife, and failing to value courage, honesty, and integrity, at work and at home.

I do think our popular culture leads us to think of “being a man” more as the opposite of weak or effeminate rather than as the opposite of being childish.  Though I should have understood the difference and its implications long ago, I really only thought about it clearly when I was studying for my recent religious conversion.  I don’t think the concept can only be found in religion.  But, our secular society could probably produce healthier and happier people by putting more emphasis on “being an adult,” as opposed to just “being a man” or “being a woman.”

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Compassion

We talk of how MC suffers from SOB syndrome. Yes, partially it is making fun, but it is also reality. He was a Selfish Oppressive Bastard and we have a very specific description of what that means that is foundational to his recovery. We talk of how MC was truly sick. Not a sickness as in a disease, but sick because he was spiritually unsound and morally corrupt. He was a morally corrupt coward. This was his reality. Some may say that I lack compassion for discussing his reality in this way. I say that facing reality is a necessary part of recovery. Coddling MC, hiding from these truths, simply would enable a continued ignorance of these core problems, these core realities. These discussions are not weapons to hurt MC. In fact, these discussions are based on his descriptions of his motivating factors and fears throughout his life. We openly discuss these factors and fears, for him and for me. We are learning to walk by each other’s side through each of our pain, but ultimately each of us is responsible for healing our own pain within. And, I think this is the difference between compassion and enabling.

A compassionate person is neither a martyr, nor a messiah. Compassion walks with another in their pain, if and when they are ready to take that walk, but understands that they are not capable of fixing that pain for the other.  Compassion does not push, pull, or carry another into walking into their pain, but rather offers to walk by their side if they are willing to do so. Compassion does not allow the other to avoid natural consequences of not wanting to take that walk. Compassion does not sacrifice one’s own mental, emotional, spiritual and/or physical health and well being to do any of this.

Loving with an open hand by Ruth Sanford

A compassionate person, seeing a butterfly struggling to free itself from its cocoon, and wanting to help, very gently loosened the filaments to form an opening. The butterfly was freed, emerged from the cocoon, and fluttered about — but could not fly. What the compassionate person did not know was that only through the birth struggle can the wings grow strong enough for flight. Its shortened life was spent on the ground; it never knew freedom, never really lived.

I call it learning to love with an open hand. It is a learning which has come slowly to me and has been wrought in the fires of pain and in the waters of patience. I am learning that I must free one I love, for if I clutch or cling, try to control, I lose what I try to hold.

If I try to change someone I love because I feel I know how that person should be, I rob him or her of a precious right, the right to take responsibility for one’s own life and choices and way of being. Whenever I impose my wish or want or try to exert power over another, I rob him or her of the full realisation of growth and maturation; I limit and thwart by my act of possession, no matter how kind my intention.

I can limit and injure by the kindest acts of protecting – and protection or concern over-extended can say to the other person more eloquently than words, ‘You are unable to care for yourself; I must take care of you because you are mine. I am responsible for you’.

As I learn and practise more and more, I can say to one I love, ‘I love you, I value you, I respect you and I trust that you have or can develop the strength to become all that it is possible for you to become — if I don’t get in your way. I love you so much that I can set you free to walk beside me in joy and sadness’.

I will share your tears but I will not ask you not to cry. I will respond to your need, I will care and comfort you but I will not hold you up when you can walk alone. I will stand ready to be with you in your grief and loneliness but I will not take it away from you. I will strive to listen to your meaning as well as your words but I shall not always agree.

Sometimes I will be angry and when I am, I will try to tell you openly so that I need not resent our differences or feel estranged. I cannot always be with you or hear what you say for there are times when I must listen to myself and care for myself, and when that happens I will be as honest with you as I can be.

I am learning to say this, whether it be in words or in my way of being with others and myself, to those I love and for whom I care. And this I call loving with an open hand.  I cannot always keep my hands off the cocoon, but I am getting better at it!

I have absolutely no respect for the MC that I now know existed prior to d-day, that is true. But, I have an immense amount of respect for the person, for the man, he is working to become now. But, it is his work to do. And, when I really think through why I sometimes want to gently help the cocoon along, I can see that it may have more to do with my wanting a sense of control in the chaos, a sense of control over the future. It is hard to embrace uncertainty. But, in the end, keeping my hands off that cocoon is healthier for us both. I work hard to remember that, though admittedly sometimes it is easier said than done!

Polygraph, from the cheater’s perspective

As TL mentioned, I passed my fourth polygraph the other day. Frequent readers will garner that TL and I are proponents of the polygraph. I guess I’ve never really written about it addressing cheaters from a cheater’s perspective.

Was I ever afraid to take it? You bet. I was afraid the first time. I was afraid every time. Why? Did I know I was hiding something? No. I told the truth on the polygraph, and always intended to do so. Was I afraid the device might fail? Not really. Was I afraid the polygraph examiner might fail? Yes. I know we’re all capable of errors and we all have varying levels of competence in our jobs. But, the two polygraph examiners I’ve used were very competent and professional.

Of course, I always have fears. I simply have to overcome those fears, each and every time. Going into each exam, I’ve been nervous and scared. I expected the best, but braced myself for the worst. I was especially freaked out by the idea that I might say I didn’t do something, quickly realize I had actually done it but forgotten that fact, and then be labeled a liar for not reporting on the thing I had just remembered. The examiners helped me relax about that, each time. They continuously assure me that the polygraph can only zing me for willfully lying about something I remember, not for inadvertently omitting something I did not remember.

So, what if something still went wrong? What if there’s some small chance of a false positive? I would be shouldering that risk. The flip side of that equation is that if I did not take the polygraph I would be shifting that risk from me to my betrayed spouse. What’s worse: the small risk that I’ll take the test and get a false positive, or the risk that my betrayed spouse will be hounded by doubt forever if I fail to take the test? Even if you think that is an unfair or difficult question, ask yourself who created this predicament in the first place? It wasn’t the betrayed spouse. It wasn’t the polygraph examiner. It’s clearly the cheater who has the moral responsibility of shouldering a tiny bit of risk, hurt pride, inconvenience, and emotional discomfort.

The other reason I overcome my fears and take the test each time is that the potential rewards are great. I can relieve my wife from some doubts and fears. Watching those fears dissipate is a reward in and of itself. I can prove to myself that I am capable of honesty and selflessness. And, perhaps more selfishly, I can prove I’m finally not lying when I say I’m not lying.

I feel an enormous sense of relief after each polygraph, exceeding the sense of dread I feel before each one.  I am afraid to take it. I am motivated by the potential rewards of passing it.  TL is worth it.

The Polygraph

Well, yesterday was the day, another polygraph for MC. When we went home last summer, MC had arranged to have his 4th polygraph test with the same examiner we had used for the first three. Only when we got to town, our examiner called us the day before the scheduled test to say he had a family emergency (a parent had died) and he had to leave town unexpectedly. Because of this, we were unable to see him before leaving town. So, we made a plan to either find one locally or wait to see this same examiner the next time we went to visit “home.”

As you all know, the “click-bait” incident scared me to death. Not because of the details to be told, they were so minor, but because the details were not immediately and fully told. The weight of that fear has been on my shoulders. So, MC made an appointment with a local polygraph examiner to see if he could take some of that weight off, to assure me that he was not withholding information from or lying to me. Like the previous polygraph examiner, this one had years of experience in law enforcement conducting polygraph exams as part of his work and this one was local to where we are living at this moment.

So, MC’s first polygraph was his baseline. That first polygraph was based on a timeline that he had originally given to me verbally and, then before the first exam, had given to me and our counselor in writing. Based on the timeline, the examiner devised questions to get at the idea of whether or not MC was knowingly withholding or lying about any information regarding his sexual history during the course of our marriage. It is like the proverbial jar filled with golf balls (the big things), then pebbles, then sand, then water (the fine details). The baseline polygraph was all about golf balls.

Now, we all know that the polygraph only tests what is asked and can only test what he remembers. In fact the following two polygraphs were largely about golf balls and, perhaps, a few pebbles as well. This time, however, besides those big golf balls of whether or not there had been anything new since the last polygraph test, there were some finer details I wanted confirmed, some seeds of doubt I wanted addressed. So, when the examiner called me the day-before yesterday to go over questions, I decided to see if we could include some of these.

MC took the day off to do the test and spent the remaining day home with me.

We arrived to the exam and he went in, while I waited in the waiting room. The examiner asked a big golf ball question first.  Something to get at the idea of whether or not MC had been truthful to me about all of his sexual experiences.

Then, next, still golf ball heading toward pebble, MC and the examiner discussed the click-bait incident, taking that incident into account, the examiner then asked something about since MC’s last polygraph has he been truthful to me?

Then, one that had always gnawed at me, something to the effect of “did you ever tell anyone you wanted your marriage to end?” He had always said that he cannot promise me it never happened, but he has absolutely no memory of saying such a thing, is ALMOST certain he did not ever say that and he certainly never wanted our marriage to end. So, this really only tested if he was being truthful that he had no memory of ever saying anything of that nature. And, that to me was the point of that question. I don’t want any lies.

And finally, some sand. During our pre d-day life, there had been a work event that AP3 attended. This happened while the kids and I were out-of-town. MC was supposed to call me after that event and did not. He sent a message that he would call me in the morning instead, but did not. So, I have focused in on this event since d-day, insisting after the event he must have  been with her. He always insisted that the event went late, she left before he did as he had to stay as one of the hosts, and then he just went straight home and crashed. He was selfish and was avoiding talking to me, but not because he was with her. I had strong doubts. Whether he was with her or not really did not matter to me. But, if he was withholding or lying about anything, that would matter to me.  So, there was a question worded carefully and specifically which asked if he was with her during the time frame in question?

HE PASSED, on all questions he passed. He continues to search for memories and provide the water to fill in all the remaining gaps in the jar of golf balls, pebbles and sand.

What I like about the polygraph is that instead of him expecting that I alone take the risk of believing he is being honest, he is willing to take some risk to prove that he is not lying. We do it less and less as time goes on, but it is there and he is willing. Above all, it means a lot to me that he is willing to put my need for reassurance above any discomfort or risk that a polygraph may bring his way.

One step along the path forward.

Behaving like a child in the marriage 

Like Freud, B divided our personalities into three parts.  Unlike Freud, with his concept of the id, superego, and ego, B called these parts the child, adult, and adult-computer.  The way I understand it, the adult part is moral and nurturing, whereas the adult-computer part is rational.  Today I was reading something — I don’t recall what — that made me see a certain part of my adultery with new understanding.

Back when I was screwing the maid, my second affair partner, I had drawn away from TL as a friend.  I had also, once again, begun pursuing sex covertly, rather than addressing it openly with TL.  Today while reading, I realized that both behaviors resulted from me retreating to the child part of my personality.

I remembered going through some difficulties at work during that time, due in equal parts to a conflict between my boss and almost everyone else, my attempt to please my boss as well as everyone else, and my failure to be guided by courage and integrity rather than by hopes that pleasing everyone would work out.  During that time TL was away for security reasons. During our calls she tried to talk to me about work.  I shut down and failed to confide in her.

Today I finally see clearly that I had been failing to relate to TL as a friend, as an equal, and as an adult. Instead, I had been equating the situation to my youth and casting TL in the role of my mother.  In my youth I eventually stopped confiding in my mother about life’s daily challenges because my mother would either insert herself, exert her will on the situation, and take over; and/or she would make irrational excuses for the problem, making up conspiracy theories and generally blaming other people, even when the responsibility for the problem was my own. TL was never anything like my mother; my view of the situation was pathological, based in a lifetime of bad mental habits, not based in reality.

So, in those phone conversations with TL during that troubled time, I let my child persona come forward, treating TL with suspicion and fear rather than with friendship, and hiding my desires from her just as I had long hid them from my mother.  I could have done better. Here’s how.  I could have called on the adult-computer part of my personality and reasoned that distancing myself from TL was going to undermine our marriage.  Better yet, I could have called on the adult part of my personality, using its moral focus to learn to behave with integrity, at work and at home, and using its nurturing tendency to give and receive the comfort and friendship that would have helped us both.

I could take this as a lesson that my mother could have helped me long ago by not making sex a taboo topic to be pursued only covertly and by not punishing me for trying to confide in her.  But, that’s less important today.  I can’t undo the failures in my life education from my parents.  Sadly, I also can’t undo the betrayal and disregard I inflicted on TL.  What I can do is frequently check in with the three parts of my personality and be sure that today, and everyday, my adult persona is out in the lead.

It wasn’t about sex

Today Diane Rehm interviewed an author and a social scientist talking about how young women deal with sex and relationships these days.  Though interesting, much of it wasn’t personally relevant to me.  There was one exception.  There was a common theme of people engaging in sexual acts but with no real sexual pleasure to be gained from it.  The example they used was young women giving oral sex and receiving nothing, not pleasure nor positive emotions, in return.  Again, this at first seemed not relevant.  Then I realized that as a teenager and young college student my own pursuit of sexual experience also had little or nothing to do with my pleasure nor positive emotions.

In my case, at that time, sex was an attempt to exorcise feelings of inadequacy.  I felt inadequate for all sorts of reasons:  being physically small, not being athletic, not fitting in with the religious majority in the community, conversely not being allowed to associate freely with people outside the religious community, being awkward around the opposite sex, not being satisfied with my physical appearance, and perhaps other reasons too.  I used all those indicators as measuring sticks to determine my success, or lack thereof, as a human being.  I saw sex as just another such measuring stick.  I thought sexual experiences would make me feel more successful as a person.  I didn’t even really want an orgasm for the enjoyment of it.  It was just another way of keeping score.  Later, first in a long-term relationship with a girlfriend, and then with TL, I even treated sex with them as a way of keeping score.  It wasn’t about love, physical pleasure, or even the enjoyment of an orgasm as much as it was about wanting to feel successful at sex, wanting to feel wanted.

Sex was also about control, for me.  I don’t mean that I wanted to control women.  I wanted to control my life.  For the first two decades of my life I was very frustrated by the feeling that my mother controlled every aspect of my life.  Sex also became an attempt to exert control of my own life.  But, this was discouraged and criticized.  Both sex and control of my own life were things my mother painted as wicked and shameful.  Perhaps this is part of how I developed the tendency of being secretive about sex.  I had to hide my own free will from my mother.  I also had to hide any hint of my own sexuality.  Both of those things became like forbidden fruits.  Whenever I came across them, I overindulged, binging as though I might never see those things again.  Last night our dog got a new beef-flavored dog food.  Being so eager for it, and not feeling she had any ability to affect whether she got the tasty dog food or the bland dog food the next day, our dog binged and ate it all very quickly.  She promptly vomited.  I ate up sex and self-determination in the same irrational, self-destructive manner that the dog inhaled her food.

Maybe the moral of this story is that in order for me to maintain self-control regarding sex, I need to remember that sex is not a proxy for success as a person.  I also need to remember that I am not deprived of self-determination.  I can choose how to live my life.  So, I don’t need to overindulge on sex, or anything else, as though its availability is as random to me as the tasty dog food was to our dog.

An epiphany

An epiphany, or maybe it is just one too many glasses of wine. . .With the boys away, the moms went out for dinner and drinks. Ah, it was nice.

So, yesterday, I mentioned how after my mom died, I was finally able to let go of my anger and resentment and find forgiveness. In her case, a big part of that was simply letting go of hoping she could and would find earthly redemption. I’ll get back to that point some day.  This post, however, is about the fact that when I let go of the anger and resentment, I found emptiness.

I found emptiness that I had ignored, not seen, not admitted to, I’m not sure. But, in that emptiness, I also started seeing more clearly just how empty my relationship with MC had become. I expressed this to him to no avail, asking for us to seek help together. He saw no problems needing help. I found anger toward him that I had not allowed myself to find before. He was selfish. I admitted to myself his many daily actions were selfish. And I began to lose patience. I began to question. I had no idea just how deep that selfishness ran. But, my eyes were slowly opening. And, then d-day hit just one year later. I don’t think that was a coincidence. 

I now have a heart too often filled with anger and resentment again. Perhaps it is time to let it go and allow emptiness to take its place, face the emptiness head-on. And, then, from that place start filling the emptiness from within. Well, it sounds right in theory anyway. Putting that into practice is an entirely different matter.

Thought for the day

Reading blogs. Then MC and I were chatting via text. He’s away with our youngest. I don’t do tents. 🙂

Just some thoughts from blog conversations, from conversations with MC, from counseling and therapy. It all feels so piecemeal. I just want to put this together all in one post. So this is likely a bit of a rehash, but hopefully a more cohesive one. I like cohesion!

So, one thing we often talk about is how sex was the symptom and sign. Horrible and unacceptable in every way, but still a sign and a symptom. A sign and a symptom of an inner core based on selfishness, cowardice and self-pity.

So in counseling we often talk about neural pathways. Our counselor equated these pathways to a superhighway that is built in our brain based on thoughts, behaviors, actions and reactions over the course of our life. We talk about how MC built a superhighway based on the selfishness, cowardice and self-pity (feeding the bad wolf) and  how he is now working to build a new superhighway based on empathy, gratitude and courage (feeding the good wolf). She is supportive of the idea that he can build this new pathway, but that it must be a conscious and constant choice and effort to do so. As he chooses to abandon the old highway, it becomes less strong, it crumbles from disuse. As he continues to make healthy choices, as he continues to choose to be guided by empathy, gratitude and courage, it strengthens this new superhighway.

So, MC and I were texting. What is at the core the selfishness, cowardice and self-pity? Anger, resentment and fear!  Anger, resentment and fear were the cement used in the building of that foundation of selfishness, cowardice and self-pity. Letting go of those resentments and anger, facing his fears allows him to stop choosing that old superhighway in the first place, allows him to finally let it crumble from disuse. How do you do that? Well, we come back to counseling, to AR and to religious teaching as well here. First, is acting with courage, facing fears. Second, is through forgiveness.

Facing his fears means finding his voice and using it, lovingly, but using it. This allows him to not become a victim of his own fears, preventing anger and resentment from building in the first place. Facing his fears means being lovingly honest even in the face of likely anger directed at him as a result, even in the face of potentially losing something or someone he does not want to lose. Facing his fears with loving honesty allows him to build esteem as an adult, to not place himself or allow himself to be placed in the role of a child.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean he has a relationship with his mom or others who are unsafe, or that he accepts misbehavior from such people. In fact, facing his fears is not allowing such things to occur. What it does mean is that he accepts that the past can never be different, can never be better. He accepts that holding on to anger and resentment will only hurt himself and push those he loves and those who love him away.

MC:  My lesson for the day may be that I began with anger toward my mom and then generalized that into a certain anger against all people, perhaps especially women. Empathy may be one key to overcoming that anger. Selflessness is also necessary.  I could not forgive as long as I saw the whole world centered on me.

Both of our moms had resentment and anger that fueled their own self-pity and selfishness.  After my Mom died, I felt so alone in the world because of the realization that both my parents were truly gone, with no hope of earthly redemption. I now realize that I was also a mourning the loss of that anger within me. I had held on to it for so many years on some level. I was finally able to forgive her. I was free of the anger and resentment.

I did not fear my mom the way MC feared his mom, so that is another layer he must work through here. And, I see him doing that, but it is a continuing journey.

After writing all of this out in one place, it hit me. How could it not? Forgiveness, this is why my own working toward forgiveness is so important for my own health and sanity as well. And, not just mine, but for our children. We must stop the cycle of anger and resentment being passed down from generation to generation.

 

 

It’s not a game

For much of our married life we have not lived near “home” because of MC’s schooling and then his job. Prior to d-day, I would miss home from time-to-time, but it was not this underlying longing that I now have since d-day. When MC was away for the year for work, the kids and I got to be home. I thought it would quench my thirst, make me realize why long ago I had decided a little distance was not a bad thing. But, it didn’t. The longing grew. I did not want to leave.

MC was willing to stay, put in a few job applications even, but I must admit I assumed the worst. That it was likely him playing chicken with me. You see, in just a few short years, he will be fully vested in his company, which means some very awesome lifetime benefits that are quite a motivating factor. So, in the end, before he would ever say anything to his HR department about wanting to quit, I would stop him and I came to believe that he was counting on exactly that.

As we get closer to our next overseas move, the homesickness grows within me. As we prepare for our oldest child’s Bar Mitzvah and are inviting family from back home, the home sickness grows within me. I wish we could be home for such big events. Last night I was sad about home. MC again said he would quit. That he would send an e-mail right now to do so. He started writing. I thought he was playing a game of chicken with me and I decided I had to know if that is what he was doing or not. So, this time I didn’t stop him. I left the room while he was writing. He sent the e-mail.

Here is the thing though. As much as I want to go home. We need those benefits. We’ve put in too many years to walk away from it now. He knows it, I know it, and he knows that I know it. So, while there is a huge part of me that is so glad to see that this was not a game, he was serious, he was actually willing to quit. The other part of me is now scared to death that something has been set into motion that may not be able to be undone. He is reaching out to HR today to find out exactly what leaving before vesting would mean. If it means losing it all, we cannot quit. Now, I am a nervous wreck that we may not even have the option to stop that ball from rolling.

Trust and Safety

Just one more I must share. It is just a great article that really touches some core issues from the beginning of this whole process and things we are still working on. It really explains why we have made the safety issue priority one and think it is so important to the process of healing.

The article is rather long, but I think it really is a good primer regarding safety and trust. It’s called, The Shocking Truth About Trust.

After discovering this article was part of the Affair Recovery subscription library, I took the actual text of the article off of our site to be sure I was not violating any copyright issues. Not that anyone said anything, but just to be safe. The provided link was found via a Google search and available without subscription.

Reference:
Reynolds, Rick (2008). The shocking truth about trust. The Affair Recovery Center. Retrieved from http://media.911marriageonline.com.s3.amazonaws.com/About_Trust.pdf

Worth sharing

So, this is from Rick over at AffairRecovery (AR). Why do we keep harping on this program. I know both MC and I are huge fans and it probably sounds like we are some advertiser for them. We are not at all. I just want to share with those of our blog friends who have sought the SA diagnosis and Twelve-Step facilitation (TSF) that Rick is SA and went through TSF. The program is not anti SA/TSF, however it also did not require it of us either. It was a separate point, not a mutually exclusive one. The reason I mention this is because I think there is one great missing link in the SA/TSF model and that is helping the SA begin on the path toward empathy development for their spouse. Not just the pain the spouse went through, not just a deeper understanding of the costs to the spouse, but also fundamental points about the meaning of “love” and the need for building safety.

We started with Rick overseas, because we did not think we would have access to trained counseling and then we found a wonderful counselor to help us both. We kept up with the 13-week online program too and often discussed what we were working on from the EMS course with our counselor. It was a stepping stone, not a cure-all, but a foundational stepping stone. I want to add that there is a bit of talk of Jesus and The New Testament, but we found it quite easy (I think Rick even suggested it) to remove the idea of Jesus from our healing process and just think of such references as references to a higher power within ourselves, G-d, or whatever worked best in the lesson at hand.

The article below gets at some major points. MC frankly has done a far better job than I on these goals. I’m certainly the master of rapid-fire questions and a bit of rage thrown in for good measure, yet I do see that it is less productive that what Rick suggests below. Though I understand his point on the details, personally I want ALL the details, and always will. That is just me. And, committing to forgiveness is still elusive, though I totally understand his point and commit to one day consider committing to it. 🙂 Regardless, I thought it worth sharing.

An excerpt from How to Survive Infidelity:

5 Tips for the Unfaithful Spouse 

You must stop the affair. You will need help to stop it. Find an experienced professional, spiritual leader, or someone who has lived through this type of situation. Getting the right kind of help from those who have gone through it before is critical to finding momentum in your recovery. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably realized your own efforts were not sufficient to prevent the affair and doing more of the same won’t be sufficient as you move forward to survive infidelity.

Commit to creating an atmosphere of safety. Commit to openness and honesty on a daily basis. Be available by cell phone. Be willing to call from a land line (to show where you are). Hand over all passwords, e-mail addresses, bills, and give access to your mate in order to give him/her assurance. Make a decision to have no unaccounted for time in your day. If you’re going to give this marriage a shot at being restored, be willing to do whatever it takes to restore trust. The way to reestablish trust is to first trust your mate with what’s going on in your life.

Take responsibility. As bad as your marriage may have been, and as rejected as you may have felt, it still doesn’t justify breaking a vow. Have the courage to say “I messed up.” Take responsibility for your own recovery.

Develop empathy for your spouse. Daily express to your mate that you’re sorry for the pain that you have caused and/or appreciation that your mate is still there. Being able to express grief over what your actions have cost your mate is one of the first and most important steps to moving beyond the betrayal.

Be patient and ask your mate how he/she is doing. If you see your mate is down, simply ask how he/she is feeling. Our first tendency when we see those storm clouds brewing over our mate is to run for the shelter, but in recovery, it’s best to be a tornado chaser by creating space to share about the pain.

Don’t be defensive. Usually defensiveness sounds like, “well if you hadn’t…” We often times blame our mate and try to justify why we messed up. This defensiveness and attempts at justifying our infidelity only adds to the frustration, hurt and anger.

5 Tips for the Betrayed Spouse

Express your feelings and thoughts without the destructiveness of rage. This one can be tricky, and is especially difficult if you are very early on into discovery. It will be somewhat easier if you are able to maintain the perspective that anger (even the rage you may currently be experiencing) is a secondary emotion. Instead of expressing your anger, talk more about the underlying feelings that evoked the anger. The underlying emotions might be hurt or fear.

Avoid rapid-fire questioning. Ask questions slowly, always asking yourself if the answer will be information you want to live with the rest of your life, and possibly have a reminder and/or trigger attached to it. I would encourage you to avoid questions that paint a picture in your head. These comparison questions create the intrusive thoughts you’ll later have to deal with. Ask yourself if the questions you’re asking are helping you move forward or if it is for some other reason.

Commit to forgiveness. This doesn’t have to happen fast, but for your sake you want it to occur. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can control your mate’s behavior by not forgiving. Remember, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Forgiving isn’t necessarily the same as reconciliation, but if your mate is safe enough it paves the way for the possibility of reconciliation.  Forgiveness is also not a one time act. There will be layers to your pain which will necessitate a commitment, in advance, to forgive as you move forward.

Allow yourself time and space to grieve and process what has happened. To attempt to heal the marriage too quickly can be devastating and is one of the leading factors of relapse for the unfaithful spouse. As Leslie Hardie says, “it’s not about the amount of time you give it, rather it’s about how you utilize the time you give it.”

Recognize your vulnerabilities. Don’t let your hurt, pain, and anger drive you to behaviors and choices you will later regret. Avoid putting yourself in vulnerable situations.

5 Tasks for the Couple

Find support. Try to find at least two or three people you can both agree would be safe individuals to share with. Having a safe place to process feelings, apart from the marriage, can be beneficial. It’s helpful for you to have someone of the same sex you can vent to and grieve with who is safe and has your best interests at heart. Your mate absolutely needs a trusted friend where they can do the same. If you don’t have this outlet outside the marriage, chances are painful emotions will build up and come out in destructive ways.

Separate the marriage from the train wreck of the infidelity. Remember, there is more to your relationship than the infidelity. The infidelity does not rewrite your whole history, although sometimes it may feel like it does. While you can never go back to what you had, you do have the opportunity for something better.

Make time to talk about the marriage and the effects of the infidelity. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to stop the dialogue about what has happened. If you cannot process through the effects of the infidelity, it will most assuredly stall your efforts to heal as a couple and create underlying dissention in your heart towards your spouse. Allow time for both of you to process what you are learning about yourselves and each other along the way.

Arrange a problem-free time during which you have fun and enjoy each other. This is a must, otherwise you will begin to feel like your identity and your relationship are just byproducts of the infidelity. Remember, there is more to life. So try to find times where you don’t discuss the infidelity.

Remind yourself and each other that your relationship can be better. You are building honesty and empathy that were probably not there before the infidelity. Your relationship will emerge from this so much better, if you let it. It will never be the same, but who wants to go back to the lie you were living? This is an opportunity to build a new foundation, with new patterns of behavior.

Affair Proofing Your Marriage

While you cannot affair proof your marriage, you can and must, affair proof your own life. This goes for the betrayed spouse too, who in many ways is ripe for an affair if healing does not take place for the trauma after the affair. This must be a vital step the unfaithful spouse takes charge of if they are going to prevent relapse and eventually reestablish trust with their mate.

Assume that an affair could happen again and take precautions, rather than assuming it will never  happen again. Actively avoid putting yourself in harm’s way. Together with your mate, design “our rules” for keeping your relationship safe.

Both parties need to understand that temptations don’t define us and behavior does not equal motive. We have to be willing to be honest about dangerous situations around us. Understand that if your mate is willing to share something that he/she is struggling with, then your mate is choosing to keep the marriage safe rather than to endanger it by hiding struggles or weaknesses.

Commit to work hard at your marriage. Marriages take work. Be willing to put as much time into the marriage as you do into other activities which you love. The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the hill, it’s greener where you water it.

Be willing as a couple to talk about this issue. Be willing to honestly discuss any areas where the relationship is at risk, rather than just going through the emotions of it all. Auto pilot seldom works in recovery.

Give back. If you’ve already recovered from a betrayal, be willing to give back to others who are still dealing with infidelity. There is no better preventive medicine than working with others who are coming along behind you. Their journey will be a constant reminder of the cost you incurred and experienced in your own journey.

Has anyone not taken meds?

Through this shit storm, time and again the counselors wanted me to get on anti-depressants. Time and again, I would explain that due to my mother’s addictions to prescription drugs, including ADs (yes, along with opiates, but still. . .), that I ABSOLUTELY refuse. I am so bat-shit scared of her addictions becoming my addictions. And, I don’t want to be that person, that Mom, for my kids.

And, yet, am I really any better of a mom than she was? Would ADs help me function more wholly? Would ADs help me to be more present in each moment of each day, until I could once again understand what that actually feels like?

I know that exercise is a natural AD for me, and yet all too often I let it go to the wayside of priorities. I lack motivation. That is what it boils down to at this point in so many ways, I lack motivation. I want to enjoy life, but I cannot imagine what might fill me with personal enjoyment. I have two beautiful children, I finished my Masters, I’ve gone back to work. I have so much outside of myself to live for, but very little within myself to live for. Does that even make sense?

I really don’t want to deal with AD’s, trying to find the right fit, and then chancing my mother’s addictions. I just cannot bring myself to it. But, I do need some help in some way to get over this hurdle. Has anyone not taken meds? What helped you get that motivation?

Housekeeping

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So, we tried some different things and never did follow-up with how they went.

First, 30 days without sex. Prior to the 30 days, he would scrunch up close to me, with his hands caressing me here and there. His arm laid heavily over me. I inevitably would feel like I was sleeping on the edge of our bed and ask him if we could move more to the middle. Sometimes I just wanted to be held gently and tenderly.

The first week of no sex, I noticed not as much affection. I asked about this and he stated he did not realize that was the case. The affection picked-up. During the second week, when holding me at night, I noticed it wasn’t as tightly, his arm wasn’t as heavy around me and he wasn’t as handsy  as prior to this 30-days no sex period.  It was really nice. The affection from him felt more relaxed and gentle and I really did like that a lot.

Since the 30 days are over, I can feel it slipping back. I really don’t know what to do about this because after years of him not initiating, I so want him to be the one to initiate. On the other hand, I also want affection for its own sake. So, yes, during the 30-day no sex period I did feel a difference in affection for its own sake versus affection geared towards sex. We need to work on this conundrum!

Second, “today I recognize. . .” For the last month, once per day, MC comes up with one thing to share with me to recognize the contributions or difficulties I experienced as a result of his being an SOB for so many years. Sometimes they are positive contributions that I made to our family that he had ignored or minimized in the past. Sometimes they are sad, lonely  moments for me that were a result of his selfishness. And, then he will apologize and tell me why it is different today. What he is doing to ensure it is different today. We had, I had, gotten into this horrible pattern of rehashing something, anything at bedtime. I think it is because these things are still on my mind (I have a hard time turning my mind off for sleep) and I needed to know that it was on his too.  So, I made sure it was. Somehow, the “today I recognize” has nipped this in the bud. That’s not to say I don’t respond sometimes with a question. But, more often than not, I just absorb what he is telling me and it somehow calms me.

Third, he is working on sharing immediately any memory that flashes through his mind about his affairs and also about any current situation that in the past he would have sought to act selfishly. I want to know all the tiny little details. I also want to know all the situations today that in the past would’ve been threats, even if they are not today. While he has done a lot to tell me these details, “our story” of this blog was his attempt to give me that, I want all the tiny pieces of the puzzle that may still be out there. For 18.5 years, others (i.e., affair partners) knew more about my marriage than I did. They had windows, where I had walls. I want ceiling-to-floor, wall-to-wall windows. He is trying to fill in any small little blanks that might be left out there. He is working on telling all that comes into his thoughts the minute it is there. Not minimizing anything to himself, not telling himself he would tell me some other time when a-z was just right, but just telling me, whether at home in person or calling from work. He is working on this without me asking, “Any memories to share?” or “Anything happen today to tell me about? “But, I find myself still asking occasionally. This to me is the difference between active vulnerability and passive vulnerability. Active tells immediately, freely, without filters, bias and in spite of any fear. Passive waits for me to ask. He is doing so much better on this. But, it is a work in progress.