Monthly Archives: May 2016

Proactive Action Plans

Recovery Nation then says to practice making a couple of action plans to promote healthy behavior. It says pick two of my top fifteen values, starting with “relatively simple” ones, and practice. Here’s my attempt.

Proactive action plan. Counting my blessings. At dinner we do the “what am I thankful for” exercise. Regularly, especially when challenged by life, I should do the exercise internally too.
1. Do the “what am I thankful for” exercise daily, at dinner time, when possible.
2. Reflect deeply on Thanksgiving, anniversaries, and family members’ birthdays, to thank God.
3. When viewing other people’s misfortunes, remind myself of my blessings.
4. When viewing other people’s blessings, remind myself that everyone has blessings and misfortunes.

Proactive action plan. Being active. I love exercise and outdoor activity. This also means looking for efficient ways to be active, such as focusing on intensity instead of quantity and being active with other people so that exercise does not distract from my commitments to family.
1. When my wife or kids are available to do something together, invite them to do something active, such as walking, swimming, biking, playing catch, or whatever else might be accessible.
2. Continue my habit of getting 35 minutes of exercise before each normal work day, and don’t increase that quantity until I’m certain I’m working to 100 percent intensity for each of those 35 minutes each time.
3. Look for vacation activities that keep us active, such as skiing or walking tours.

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Values in practice 

Then the exercise said, examine the list one more time for its realism. Do this by briefly grasping each value and thinking about the role that it would play in your day-to-day life.

Here’s my attempt.

1. Counting my blessings.  At dinner we do the “what am I thankful for” exercise.  Regularly, especially when challenged by life, I should do the exercise internally too.
2. Honesty.  I should remind myself of this value when talking with others.
3. Maturity.  This is really what I always wanted out of life:  to be grown-up and responsible for myself.  I should remind myself that it requires responsibility and courage.
4. Being a good husband.  This means keeping my wife’s needs and desires prominently in mind.
5. Being a good father.  This means enabling my kids to succeed and to be happy.
6. Wanting the best for my family.  This means vigilantly monitoring my decisions to avoid selfish behavior.
7. Protecting my family.  An example is summoning the courage to stand up to my mother, who has a history of criticizing my wife.
8. Meaningful relationships with my wife and kids.  This means being mentally and emotionally present, not just physically present.  It means focusing on them, and not being distracted by chores and similar compulsions.
9. Being active.  I love exercise and outdoor activity.  This also means looking for efficient ways to be active, such as focusing on intensity instead of quantity and being active with other people so that exercise does not distract from my commitments to family.
10. Being useful.  For now, I enjoy this luxury at work and at home.  I will thank God if I can continue having the time and opportunity to do work that is useful, for several more decades.
11. Lifelong learning.  This comes with my career and my wife.  In finding my next career, I need to remember this value.
12. Creating new ideas throughout life.  My job allows me to exercise some creativity.  Writing also helps.  I want to be sure my next job also allows me to be creative.
13. Improving the community or world.  I often look for ways to improve my neighborhood or community.
14. Living with integrity.  When faced with daily decisions or interactions, I must keep up my inner dialogue about honesty and courage.
15. Living with compassion.  When relating to other people, I must maintain my inner dialogue about being empathetic and not being judgmental.  There, but for the grace of God, go I.
16. Teaching.  My job allows me to teach.  I must find this in my next job too.
17. Quality work.  Daily, I should maintain an inner dialogue reminding myself that work can give me more than just money.  It can also give me pride, self-pride that I have to earn.
18. Competence.  Daily, I should maintain an inner dialogue reminding myself that work can give me more than just money.  It can also give me pride, self-pride that I have to earn.
19. Being dependable.  I can remind myself not to neglect commitments, and not to make too many commitments.
20. Humility.  I can remind myself that I am more content when I don’t get jealous, prideful, our self-righteous. Recalling life’s hardships during a meditative morning moment helps with this.
21. Loyalty.  This means reminding myself of my commitments to others, and of their loyalty to me.
22. Flexibility.  This is a key ingredient of healthy spontaneity.  When I feel compelled to clean, tidy, or do some task on my to-do list, I must remind myself that relationships are more important.
23. Selflessness. I must maintain an inner dialogue about the importance of supporting others.
24. Empathy.  This means trying to see things from my wife’s perspective.
25. Mindfulness.  This means living in the moment, particularly when talking to my wife or others, but also when experiencing daily life.
26. Being a good role model.  This means that when making decisions I should consider which course of action would provide the best example from my kids.
27. Independence.  When possible, I should at least consider doing things myself instead paying someone else or asking for help.
28. Financial freedom.  This begins with paying down debt and keeping expenses low.
29. Being trusted. This means telling my wife and others everything, including unpleasant truths.
30. Companionship.  This means not just having a companion, but also being a companion.  I need to think daily about giving my wife attention and support.
31. Appreciating nature.  Even as we age, every year I will aim to camp and ski with my family.  My wife and I will aim to live in a place with a good natural environment.
32. Leaving a legacy.  I want to help my children be successful.  I want to write a book.
33. Friendship.  This means not just having a friend, but also being a friend.   I need to think daily about giving my wife attention and support.
34. Forgiveness.  This means remembering that forgiving other people will free me from the burden of anger.  It also means remembering that nobody owes it to me to forgive me, but I should work to earn forgiveness regardless.
35. Realism.  This means remembering to be wide awake to risks and challenges.
36. Conservation.  This means finding practical ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
37. Open-mindedness.  This means remembering to not be judgmental.
38. Financial security.  This begins with paying down debt and keeping expenses low.  It also means that after this career I must have a new discussion with my wife about our financial goals and how to meet them.
39. Courage.  This means speaking up when I have something to say at work, to my birth family, or to others, instead of holding it in.
40. Balance.  This means looking at life each day and evaluating whether I am neglecting any aspect of it.

Neutral (could be good or bad, depending on your approach).  I think these values can be healthy if I interpret them and apply them wisely.  If I take them to extremes, pursue them for the wrong reasons, or fail to balance them with other values, they could become unhealthy, I think.

41.  Professionalism.  With the right approach, this means practicing integrity in my work and taking a healthy portion of pride in my work. With the wrong approach, this means putting time and energy into work at the expense of my family.
42. Responsibility.  With the right approach, this means fulfilling commitments and making good choices.  With the wrong approach, this means allowing my “to-do list” compulsions to control me instead of me controlling them.
43. Leadership.  With the right approach, this means behaving with courage, wisdom, and responsibility.  With the wrong approach, this means spending too much time and energy pursuing leadership opportunities and not enough on my family.
44.  Taking care of my health, taking pride in myself.  With the right approach, this means looking inside myself for esteem and happiness.  With the wrong approach, this means vanity and seeking validation from other people.
45. Freedom.  With the right approach, this means independence and maturity.  With the wrong approach, this means self-indulgence and lack of responsibility.
46. Excitement.  With the right approach, this means appreciating life.  With the wrong approach, this means taking inappropriate risks that unfairly threaten my family or others.
47. Adventure.  With the right approach, this means making the most of life.  With the wrong approach, this means self-indulgence at others’ expense.
48. Being loved.  With the right approach, this means appreciating positive feelings from others.  With the wrong approach, this means seeking external, not internal, validation.
49. Physical pleasure, including food, drink, sex, sports.  With the right approach, this means appreciating life in a healthy way.  With the wrong approach, this means getting out of balance and neglecting other paths to happiness.
50. Seeing the world.  With the right approach, this can help me appreciate life.  With the wrong approach, this could lead to imbalance and neglecting the needs of my family.
51. Masculinity.  With the right approach, this can help me feel self-esteem and to think about the role of responsibility and self-sacrifice in masculinity.  With the wrong approach, this could devolve into shallow, self-centered pursuit of external validation.
52. Being respected.  With the right approach, this could motivate me to make good choices.  With the wrong approach, this could devolve into shallow, self-centered pursuit of external validation.
53. Feeling needed and desired.  With the right approach, this could help me appreciate sincere supportive sentiments from others.  With the wrong approach, this could devolve into shallow, self-centered pursuit of external validation.
54. Happiness and contentment.  With the right approach, this could remind me to appreciate life.  With the wrong approach, this could lead to self-centered behavior.
55. Sense of accomplishment. With the right approach, this could help me find self-esteem.  With the wrong approach, this could crowd out time and energy I should devote to my family.
56. Physical health, strength, beauty.  With the right approach, this could help me develop self-esteem, and physical health directly promotes mental health.  With the wrong approach, this could devolve into shallow, self-centered pursuit of external validation.
57. Order.  Order directly gives me comfort and helps me with self-control.  The danger is that I  might become a slave to my “to do list” and “neat freak” compulsions, thus losing self-control and failing to give necessary time and energy to my family.  I must constantly seek balance with regard to my desire for order.

Values, then and now

The next exercise asked me to consider two major decisions that I made in life (i.e. marriage, career, getting a dog, etc.). Examine the values involved in the decision-making process. Consider having to make those decisions today.

Values I used in deciding who to marry and when:  desire for sex, friendship, feeling needed and desired, and companionship.

Values I would want to use if I had to make that decision today:  friendship, companionship, being a good husband, being a good father, having a meaningful relationship with my family, maturity, happiness and contentment, physical pleasure, lifelong learning, being active, adventure, being loved, feeling needed and desired, and seeing the world.

Values I used when deciding my career: financial security.

Values I would want to use if I had to make that decision today:  financial security, professionalism, teaching, leadership, lifelong learning, wanting the best for my family, being useful, creating new ideas throughout life, quality work, competence, financial freedom, balance, and sense of accomplishment.

The responses do track with my values list.

Memories?

Yesterday’s post about the past of my marriage being dead is something I continue to explore and question. Why is holding to these memories, wanting to be able to still cherish some of them, wanting to see that MC does cherish them too still hold such importance to me?

Prior to d-day, MC would not really talk about our life together, he would not reminisce about anything good that had happened in our life, our story. I remember seeing him enjoying moments with me as those moments occurred. But, then not long after it seemed those experiences together were of no worth or value to him.

Looking back on that now, I think it was part of his “glass is cracked and leaking” philosophy of life, part of his inability to recognize his blessings or even admit that he had any blessings to himself or to anyone around him. He did not want anything to get in the way of feeling sorry for himself. Hindsight makes certain things so much clearer, doesn’t it?

Thinking so much about this, trying to really figure it out. Perhaps my wanting to hear about those memories that were meaningful to him is trying to see what he thinks his blessings were, to understand if he does recognize any of those blessings at all, to know if there was ever a part of him that appreciated “our story,” at least enough that he is capable of recognizing it now. Perhaps my wanting to hear about those memories now is to glean wether or not the experiences we shared together held any value to him or would those experiences hold the same or more value had he done them alone or with someone else. Or, maybe the truth is that he never appreciated them, but only now wishes he did and I am trying to figure out if that is the reality.

In this expat life we live, we have done some “once in a lifetime” bucket list type things that should be of value regardless of with whom they were done. Still, I want to know that it wasn’t just the experience, but that he shared that experience with me that he cherishes, now that he is willing to admit that his life had anything worth cherishing. Does that make any sense at all?????

Still, I know “our story” is not what I thought it was and maybe this is futile endeavor? Perhaps I am wanting him to cherish something he never really did cherish, but only now wishes he did. I have a book of loving notes that MC created for me. Each day he would leave me a small written note, some were about blessings today and some were about memories of shared experiences pre d-day. I like hearing him talk to others about shared experiences with me and/or the kids that were meaningful because they were shared with us. But, is this desire that I keep holding onto, preventing me from moving ahead. Should I take that book of memories and throw it on a bonfire and start from scratch with MC in all ways, only talking about and cherishing those memories since he pulled his head out of his ass?

My past marriage is dead

So, I recently watched an AffairRecovery video on grieving being a necessary step toward healing.

A couple quotes stood out to me,

“In these situations, we may be powerless, but we’re not helpless. We still get to choose how to respond.”

“Pain that is not transformed will be transmitted.” Richard Rohr

That last quote has been something that kept me alive in my darkest moments at the beginning of all of this, when I thought my life had been through too many struggles, and I just could not do it anymore. The realization that we have generations in both our families that have been transmitting their pain on to the next. The realization that taking the dark and drastic step I was contemplating would not eliminate the pain, but simply guarantee that my pain would then be transmitted to my children. I knew that I did not want to be a part of that. We have to stop this pain being transmitted from generation to generation. And, that is why that first quote is so important.

But, in my pain, in my loss, I am still transmitting instead of transforming. Rick discussed how we have to let go of the past we thought we had, let go of the marriage we believed existed, it is dead, it is gone, and we must mourn it. No wishing for things to be what they were before. I was thinking, that is easy. I really don’t wish for that. But, then I was just realizing how I do this thing where I ask MC to share memories of our past that were meaningful to him. Maybe, this means I have not fully mourned my past marriage with MC. Why else would I ask for such memories? I don’t know the answer to that yet.

Then Rick talked about the process of death, in the tomb and rebirth. A very Christian concept obviously.  Perhaps I would label it differently, but I think the concept holds regardless. First, we MUST accept the past we thought we had is dead. Second, we exist in the tomb as we are in a time of figuring out our place in the world, what G-d wants for us, what we want for ourselves. Mostly, I feel as if I am in this stage and have been for far too long. Third is rebirth, where we create a new vision for ourselves and the direction we want for our lives. Each step must be in order. And, so, I wonder if my asking MC to share memories of our pre d-day life is me trying to hold onto a part of that life instead of letting it die like it needs to die? Perhaps this is why I am still stuck in the tomb, I still have one foot trying to not accept that my life before d-day is gone and dead. I really don’t know. Just brainstorming some thoughts to explore.

MC’s values, my view

My exercise was to discuss the values I see present in MC both prior to d-day and post d-day.

My husband grew-up in an exceptionally conservative religious community, with a self-righteous, controlling and judgmental mother who treated him more like a doll in a display case to take down and show-off every now and again, than a child. He tells a story of placing 2nd at the district-wide spelling bee while in elementary school. He was crying and so upset, not because he didn’t come in first place, but because he knew his mom would be upset that he didn’t come in first place. Growing up with the pressure to be perfect, he disintegrated himself into two images. One for his mom based on her desire for a weak, timid, easy-to-control, but highly academically brilliant boy, afraid to speak up or stand up for himself. And, his other, hidden self to act as he pleased, when he pleased, secretly, and without judgment. Funny enough, when that hidden self was unsuccessfully hidden and expressed as a child or teen, his mother automatically blamed the behavior on the bad influence of others, shielding him from any outside (of her) consequences. This type of lack of integration, separating into two selves, like Jekyll and Hyde, is representative of the man he was, not the man he wants to be. Therefore, in his case, I do not believe it is helpful to separate out differing selves, but rather for him to learn to be an integrated person who matches his actions to his words, and makes choices with integrity, honesty, and courage in all aspects of his life.

All that being said, I do believe that there are values from his pre D-day life that will hold in his post D-day life:

1) Intelligence
2) Wit
3) Organized
4) Disciplined
5) Interested in political and philosophical thoughts and ideas
6) Love of travel, fitness and non-ball sports (swimming, skiing, running, SCUBA, etc.)

Continuing obstacles

1) He is exceptionally tied to his to-do list and has, over the last four years, worked exceptionally hard to turn that to-do list from “his priorities” to “our priorities” and to practice flexibility in regard to the to-do list. The to-do list does NOT have to ALWAYS take precedence. However, I do think flexibility on this will be a continuing struggle for him.
2) Flexibility in general. My husband has a hard time switching gears; micro managing is an instinct for him. Though it is good, to a point, to follow through and ensure the kids are on track, for example, there is a point where such actions do not allow them to be in control of making their own choices and learning from those choices (sounds familiar to his own childhood).
3) Moderation. He is either totally on top of everything and everyone, micro-managing or totally lets go of it altogether. There is middle ground. Though he now recognizes that reality, he still struggles with it and I foresee it as a continuing struggle.
4) Lack of spontaneity. Allowing a bit of the spontaneity and fun that he sought in his forbidden life to be a part of our family, and our marriage in a healthy, safe and loving way continues to be a struggle for him. This is part of the integration that I spoke of the first part of this exercise that he works upon, but I see as a continuing long-term struggle.
5) Fear. He has made courage one of his top priorities. He is working on not shying away from conflict, but it continues to be a struggle. I think each time he successfully faces such situations and sees that world has not ended, it does build confidence and reinforce a positive. But, it is not automatic and is a long road ahead of consistently facing those fears.

My values

My values

My understanding of this Recovery Nation exercise was that I should list both the “positive,” healthy values to which I turn my focus now, and the “negative,” less healthy values that I know guided my behavior, consciously and subconsciously, in the past. To be clear, I’ll break this list into three parts, if possible.

Positive
1. Counting my blessings
2. Honesty
3. Maturity
4. Being a good husband
5. Being a good father
6. Wanting the best for my family
7. Protecting my family
8. Meaningful relationship with my wife and kids
9. Being active
10. Being useful
11. Lifelong learning
12. Creating new ideas throughout life
13. Improving the community or world
14. Living with integrity
15. Living with compassion
16. Teaching
17. Quality work
18. Competence
19. Being dependable
20. Humility
21. Loyalty
22. Flexibility
23. Selflessness
24. Empathy
25. Mindfulness
26. Being a good role model
27. Independence
28. Financial freedom
29. Being trusted
30. Companionship
31. Appreciating nature
32. Leaving a legacy
33. Friendship
34. Forgiveness
35. Realism
36. Conservation
37. Open-mindedness
38. Financial security

Neutral (could be good or bad, depending on your approach)
39. Professionalism
40. Responsibility
41. Leadership
42. Taking care of my health, taking pride in myself
43. Freedom
44. Excitement
45. Adventure
46. Being loved
47. Physical pleasure, including food, drink, sex, sports
48. Seeing the world
49. Masculinity
50. Being respected
51. Happiness and contentment
52. Sense of accomplishment
53. Physical health, strength, beauty
54. Feeling needed and desired

Negative
55. Power
56. Control
57. Experiencing the forbidden
58. Avoiding conflict

TL’s Vision Statement

Since discoveries I find myself fighting the road to self-pity. Part of dealing with the depression and trauma that this has brought into my heart has been obsessing on the could’ve, would’ve, should’ve and if onlys; comparing my life to those around me; and being focused on my broken pride.

And, while I think I needed time to go ahead and do that, to live in my pain and wallow in it, to truly feel it all, there must be a point where it does not control so many of my waking moments anymore. I see a future where I go from being a victim, to being more than just a survivor, but actually thriving, living and loving once again.

To do this, I know I need to focus on learning to let go of ego (external validation, esteem from others) and focus on building self-esteem (self validation, esteem from self), on accepting that the past can never be different, on finding happiness regardless of my marriage, on building ways to trust myself and my instincts.

I am learning to trust my instincts because I am different now. I can see selfishness for what it is, now that my rose colored, blind-faith glasses are in the garbage. I am seeing reality better than ever before. Still, it is still a work in progress and probably always will be.

Because this is a life long journey, I don’t trust in a set future, in some narrative of what can or should be. Instead, I am learning to trust in me, that no matter what happens, I will be ok. I am learning to like me as I am now; a realist, who says what she thinks. Hopefully, in a loving and authentic way. Whether I stay married or not, I want to be that loving and authentic woman in all of my relationships with others. I want this for my own health and sanity, but I also want this for modeling what it is to be a healthy person for our children.

Vision Statement

The three exercises basically ask me to develop and share a vision statement for my life. It helped me to imagine I was looking backward from the day of my death.

I want to demonstrate to my wife that I can love and protect her. If she is alive for my funeral, I want her to feel more positive about my life than negative. I want to have been a positive factor in her life.

Likewise, I want to maintain an active, growing, useful relationship with my sons until I die. I see, with some disappointment, how my own relationship with my parents devolved, long ago, into nothing more than superficial gestures. I lost faith in their ability to teach me anything without an accompaniment of criticism and judgment. I don’t want my kids to ever fear telling me about themselves and their lives, as they grow and change. I want them to know that I am there to support them emotionally (not financially), and not think that they exist to act out my dreams or to be constrained by my fears.

I want to be active, mentally and physically, as long as my health allows. I want to look back and know that I actively exercised my mind and body regularly, and that I accomplished something, no matter how small. I want to know that I did not waste my life with idleness or self-defeating behaviors. Whether it’s working, teaching, or writing, I want to feel I was continuously exploring, learning, and creating, even in small ways. Even if the scale is small, I want to feel I made a difference, in some positive way.

Looking at your own lost innocence 

I’m working on a program called Recovery Nation.  The most recent exercise basically asked me to look into my own eyes when I was a child of 3, 4, or 5-years old.  When I do this, I already sense possible roots of my problems.  Even back then, I lacked confidence, confidence that I am still working to develop.

I remember feeling weak and fearful when I was in kindergarten.  I was embarrassed by those feelings, but did not try to overcome them.  Those feelings made me want to look away from the other kids, to not interact in the same world with them unless they interacted in ways where I did not feel inferior.  For example, when the kids engaged in imaginary play, I joined them.  But, when they slid down the pole of the jungle gym, something I was afraid to do, I walked away, retreated into my own world, and just wished things were different.

I think the theme here that I carried forward in my life was the problem of retreating into my own world and wishing life was different, rather than courageously facing my fears. Given how I was truly afraid of, for example, sliding down the fire pole, I really can’t imagine what I could have done differently.  I also can’t imagine what my parents or teacher could have done differently.  I guess the important thing is that now I am conscious of things I can do differently, today and going forward.

As an aside, I’m curious to know the point of this exercise.  Is it to encourage me to care for myself?  If so, I wonder whether that is really a problem. It seems to me that my years of lying and cheating came from failing to care about other people, not from failing to care about myself.  On the other hand, maybe the point of the exercise is to identify some coping mechanisms I have used since childhood.  In my case those seem to be retreating into an inner world and wishing my struggles away.

Thinking of Mom

I had a dream the other night that rather shook me.

I was in a grand hotel getting ready for my marriage to MC. In reality, MC and I had eloped and my dad was already dead. But, in the dream my dad came to my room as I was getting ready.

In the dream, my dad told me that he had cheated on my mom many many times throughout their marriage, so many that he had lost count. I was devastated.

In my dream, I realized this is why my mom had become addicted to opiates, to a victim mentality. In my wedding dress, I ran out of the room crying, got into an elevator crying, went down to the pool side bar and ordered a lemonade. A friend was at the bar, she started comparing her boyfriend to MC, making it clear she thought less of MC and of me in comparison to them as a couple. Making some joke about Spanish omelets. At the time, in my dream, I understood the innuendo. For the life of me, upon waking I had no idea what it meant.

After my parents separated, I went with Mom. She was very bitter and already so far gone in her addiction that she was not capable of thinking outside of herself. I didn’t live with her for very long before going to live with other family.

When I would go to visit with her, she would spend the entire time bashing my dad. My dad, on the other hand, would never say ANYTHING against my mom. Where my mom wanted me to choose between them. My dad always emphasized that he understood that things were difficult between us, but she is my mom, so he expects me to treat her with respect. Because of my mom’s constant bashing of my dad, I spent my time with my mom defending my dad. When I was with my dad, I spent the time just talking to him about life. This was one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed spending time with my dad, but not with my mom.

Did my dad do to my mom what MC did to me? I don’t know. I suspect in all of my mom’s bashing, she would have made those allegations had they occurred right away, she never held back from attacking and blaming others. It wasn’t until a few years after the divorce that she did try to blame another woman as the reason that he divorced her. But, the facts she laid out didn’t fit and she had a history of making up stories to fit her narrative.

My dad did date  a woman for a few months after the divorce. And, then about six month’s later met the woman who would become his girlfriend until he died.  My mom would always blame this last girlfriend for breaking up their marriage. It didn’t make sense. If she had insisted it was the first woman he had dated, I would have wondered at the least about it. But, mom had a habit of making up a narrative that always made her the victim. She had a habit of making up a narrative that always denied that her illnesses and constant need for pain meds had had anything to do with anything.

But, that dream has shaken me.

And, now, I need to put this aside and just focus on today.

SA or philanderer?

Just to be clear, though I think Sex Addiction (SA) is over diagnosed, I am not saying it is not a possibility. Still, as Peggy Vaughan pointed out, even Patrick Carnes said that in cases of infidelity, SA exists about 7% of the time. And, yet, it seems that the world around us has tacked on another 90% to that total. That being said, like Peggy Vaughan indicated, if a program requires stepping up and taking responsibility, addressing the issues at hand, then who cares the label, accepting help and following through is what is important.

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, who does recognize SA, still had this distinction to make:

“Sexual addicts are compulsively attracted to the high and the anxiety release of sexual orgasm. But such release comes with a price — feelings of shame and worthlessness. In contrast, philanderers who perceive extramarital sex as an entitlement of gender or status take advantage of opportunities without guilt or withdrawal symptoms.”

MC fully admits it was the later. That is very scary for him to admit and for me to know, but denying that truth helps nobody. An “I deserve” attitude fueled by a desire for ego kibbles, a sense of injustice, self-pity, a victim mentality or whatever the case may be can be addressed once admitted to by the cheater. Like SA, it is also a brokenness, but one that has to do with character weaknesses and a foundation of mysogynistic ideas that must be addressed.

The success or failure of our path forward, says absolutely nothing about the success or failure of anyone else’s path forward. That does not mean we cannot each share thoughts, ideas, and exercises from our own paths that we have found useful, that others may also find useful. I think that any exercises, from any source, that helps the cheater face their demons, and the betrayed work through their trauma, can be useful. Drawing from a variety of sources, listening, sharing and helping each other, with different perspectives and exercises that can get at core issues, promises greater understanding of ourselves and each other. We look forward to those conversations.

 

 

Reasons I seek to permanently change my life

1. I want the quiet confidence that comes from striving for integrity and morality.
2. I want the relative calm that comes with having my priorities straight, instead of the harried existence of a double life.
3. I want my wife to feel safe and to be able to find courage to pursue her own goals.
4. I want to be a good example for my children and for others.
5. I want to earn my wife’s trust, love, and respect.
6. I want to continue using my time productively and investing in meaningful relationships, instead of wasting time with porn, affairs, and prostitutes.
7. I want to continue using money wisely, rather than wasting it on prostitutes and affairs.
8. I want to be able to speak freely about anything I do, feel, or think, without fear that any of it will bring me shame.
9. I want to be able to look back on the remaining few decades of my life with fewer regrets than I have about the first four decades.
10. I want to accomplish things that bring me pride, rather than waste time and energy on things I’m embarrassed to share.

Bottom Lines Continued

Part 2

I think that in my earlier post on this topic, I skipped a step.  More specifically, I bundled steps one and two.  Hymynameismike said, ” . . . start by identifying the situations, actions, places, devices, etc., that are most frequently related with your average slip when you act out.”  That’s step one.

I find it very difficult to identify things related to me acting out now.  Why?  I don’t act out now.  Alright, I probably do.  But, I certainly do not act out in the blatantly obvious ways I did four years ago, before D-day.  I just don’t.  I don’t want to act out in those ways.  Part of the reason I did so before D-day is that I actually wanted to do so.  Cheating on my wife, lying, having affairs, seeing prostitutes, using porn, and masturbating were not slips.  They were conscious choices.  I chose to do those things.  I had free will, and I used it selfishly and hurtfully.

Conversely, I have neither masturbated nor used porn for 47 months now.  I have not cheated on my wife in any way in 46 months.  Those are conscious choices.  I am very happy with those choices.  I am proud of them.  I made those choices for me; not for my wife, mother, God, or anyone else.

So, do I need red lines to prevent slips, to prevent acting out?  Maybe. What is “acting out” for me now?  Maybe it’s failing to reveal every detail about my behavior and my thinking that my wife might find worrisome.  Examples include two years ago when I smoked for several months while I was away for a year and hid it from my wife, and several months ago when I clicked on some dumbass racy, but not pornographic, photo on the internet that was starring at me under a heading such as “suggested stories,” and took way too long to confess to my wife.

So, if those are the slips that challenge me, what are the situations, etc., related to such acting out?  It boils down to one basic thing:  acting in a way that I would be embarrassed, afraid, or ashamed to describe to my wife, sons, parents, boss, staff, peers, or others whose views matter to me.

Would I be ashamed to tell my son I smoked a cigarette?  Yes.  Would I be embarrassed to tell my boss I clicked an Internet link purporting to tell about “25 unbelievable women?”  Yes.  Again, the slip, or acting out, is:  any behavior of mine that I would be hesitant to share with others, openly, freely, and casually.  

Part Three

I’ve now written out seven redlines that cover a lot of ground.  Let’s start by identifying a situation related to me having a slip and acting out.  I once noted that I feel restless when I’m alone in a hotel room after dinner.  I actually think I’ve overcome that problem now.

But, knowing that I can’t afford to be overconfident, let me try to explore this topic further.  Before D-day, being alone in a hotel room at night was often associated with acting out, including anything from porn to prostitutes.  As I’ve noted before, those weren’t really slips.  They were conscious choices on my part; unfortunate, self-centered, even self-defeating choices.  In the four years since D-day, I’ve stuck firmly to my conscious choice to not act out when I’m alone in a hotel room.

Nonetheless, I can create some redlines for this situation, to be sure I’m not just being overconfident:

  1. Don’t use the television when I’m alone in a hotel room.
  2. Once my dinner and work meetings are done for the day, do not leave the hotel without telling my wife where, when, and why I’m going.

Part Four

As I wrote the foregoing nine redlines, I was targeting behaviors related to dishonesty or sexual malfeasance.  There’s another, more basic, challenge to which I might be able to apply redlines.  That challenge is self-pity.  It seems like it comes up in response to unexpected triggers.  There is one topic that I wrongly and inadvertently spent decades conditioning myself to associate with self-pity.  These triggers may not appear in my life for quite some time.  Then, they may suddenly and unexpectedly appear in some magazine, television show, overheard conversation between strangers, or any other everyday type of occurrence.

I can’t anticipate the places or situations in which I might encounter these triggers.  But, maybe it would help to at least identify the trigger.  The trigger is:  talk of sexual promiscuity.  It doesn’t matter whether it is discussed as good, bad, or indifferent.  The mere discussion of it risks tempting me to feel sorry for myself, thinking about my self-perceived sexual inexperience before marriage.  I thought — perhaps inaccurately — that most people in my age, educational, and socioeconomic demographic had sex earlier, easier, and more often than I did.  Never mind that that kind of thinking is self-defeating and warped, and that I know it’s mentally unhealthy.  It was a temptation, and I need to be clear with myself what strategy I will use to avoid this temptation.

Can I avoid the temptation of self-pity by using redlines?  Or, are there other strategies that will help in this case?  Here’s my brainstormed list of strategies that seem to help.  When encountering talk of sexual promiscuity and working to avoid falling into self-pity, I can:

  1. Use the three-second rule.  Force my mind to change subjects before more than three seconds pass.
  2. Remind myself of the risks.  Tell myself that self-pity almost destroyed my marriage, and remind myself how hard I’ve worked to try and turn things around.
  3. If I’m with my wife, I can remind myself how much I care for her and how much my self-pity could frighten her.
  4. If I’m alone when it happens, I could do 20 push-ups, call my wife or another safe person, and/or read something safe and pleasurable — history or fitness articles, in my case — for 15 minutes, to point my mind in a healthier direction.

These aren’t really redlines.  They are strategies. I think the redline in this case is:  don’t fail to employ one or more of these strategies when I run into a self-pity trigger.

I’ll keep thinking about redlines.  Meanwhile, I think the ten I’ve described this week cover every potential slip I can imagine.  Thanks again to Hymynameismike for the inspiration.

 

Selfish-Oppressive-Bastard (SOB) syndrome

Reposting, as this is a core concept for us and our path forward.

Reconcile4Life

Not all serial cheaters are sex addicts, some are simply SOBs! What is an SOB? We use the term “Selfish Oppressive (Obsessive would also work) Bastard” (SOB) Syndrome to describe MindlessCraft’s addiction to self-pity, entitlement and using those as a weapon not only to justify and rationalize his inappropriate thoughts and behaviors, but as a weapon against me, against us (and what he realizes with sickening clarity now) against himself. It is not only because the actual acronym we all know and love is actually accurate. But, because SOB syndrome indicates a pathology of selfishness, self-pity, entitlement and oppressive behaviors in an attempt to build ego. And, bastard, well that is just fitting for someone who made choices based on the previous motivations.

I shared everything about myself with my husband before we married thinking he was my best friend, only to be blindsided with his obsessive insecurities after marriage. I thought…

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Bottom lines

I just read a post called “Recovery Tool: Bottom Lines” on a site called himynameismike.org. It’s one of the most practical things I’ve read in a long time.  I think I have some bottom lines: basically red lines, boundaries I won’t allow myself to cross.  I also think the red lines I developed shortly after D-day are becoming second nature for me.  However, as the author suggests, I could probably benefit from consciously developing and listing a few high priority red lines that could use my full attention right now.

Shortly after D-day I used the following red lines:

1. Don’t be alone with a woman who is not my wife, unless it is an obviously safe and necessary situation involving professional or family responsibilities.
2. Don’t look at porn or masturbate, at all.
3. Don’t communicate electronically with anyone in a way I would be afraid to show my wife.

I still adhere to those red lines.  But, have recently added a few more:

1. Do not click on suggested internet links that are accompanied by alluring pictures of women.
2. Do not visit any internet site that I would be afraid or ashamed to explain to my wife.
3. Do not eat alone with a woman, even in a public place such as an airport, even as a chance encounter that appears innocent, and even with a woman whose relationship with me appears only professional.

That’s a start.  I do think I’ll give this question more thought, to see if I can brainstorm any additional necessary, helpful, or timely red lines for my current focus.

Eh. . .

Feeling bored, scared, overwhelmed and more secure all at the same time and cannot quite make heads or tails of it.

The move is becoming real. There is SO much to do. Trying to plan the Bar Mitzvah. My job bores me to death, but it is money and it is work from home and it can travel with me. Still, I have trouble focusing on it because it is so damn tedious. We need to sell a car. We need to find tenants for our investment property. We need start organizing this home for the move. The dog is on her last legs and we don’t know if she can travel with us or not, but we need to plan travel for her as if she will be able to join, as any other thought just breaks all of our hearts.

MC is not in counseling right now because B recently retired. But, he is actively writing and started exploring “Recovery Nation” as something he can work through as we prep for the move and possibly after the move. I don’t know if we will be able to keep our blog public and/or active after the move. As with so many places we have lived, the host government is not the most open and free with its internet access and internet connections are even less secure than in the US. Would a VPN be enough???

I do feel we are on a good track. I can see and feel that we are truly partners. There are big changes ahead for our family, which is both exciting and scary, but we are working through it all together.

Status report

With the upcoming move and B’s retirement, I’m just beginning to work in a new website called Recovery Nation.  Here’s what I wrote in response to the first question in the first lesson.

Where am I in terms of actively committing myself to change?  I think I’m there, all the way there.  I can’t prove it.  I can’t disprove it.  But, my motivation is genuine, and my commitment to “doing the work” is proven.  My motivation is to stop being a liar and cheater, to start and continue feeling the quiet confidence that comes from integrity and a moral compass, and to start and continue the relatively calm contentment that comes from having healthy priorities, as opposed to the harried existence of trying to live a double life.

I often write the list of practical measures I’ve taken.  I’ll reiterate it here, only to put it into the context of this question.  My wife and I have taken Rick Reynolds’s Affair Recovery class; I’ve seen three counselors; I regularly practice introspection and writing in the context of recovery; I’ve passed four polygraphs, had a vasectomy, given my wife all my passwords and accounts, and signed a post-nuptial agreement to give my wife safety; and studied for months to complete a religious conversion.

Where am I in terms of not allowing guilt and shame to sabotage my commitment to change?  My wife and I explored this topic recently.  We identified what we call the “shame shield” that some self-described sex addicts seem to use.  We see this in the blogosphere.  Betrayed spouses talk about how their betrayers spend so much time and energy being ashamed that they don’t have time and energy to be supportive.  Disloyal spouses talk about how ashamed they are as though they’re saying to their spouses, “Don’t bother criticizing my behavior.  I’m doing plenty by criticizing my own behavior.”  Sure, I’m ashamed of how I lied and cheated.  But, I also see that it’s imperative that I don’t let that stop me from talking openly about everything with my wife or counselors.

Where am I on allowing myself time to change?  D-day was July 2012.  I’ve been working on recovery consistently since then.  My wife and I consider this a lifelong journey, with no expiration date.  This is definitely a marathon, not a sprint.