TL and I recently talked about questions that often come to mind as we work on recovery, as a couple. We start with the following philosophy. “I have power over my choices. My life is in my control. Help and guidance along the way are valued and needed, but ultimately it is up to me to realize that I am responsible for my life, for my choices and deciding the kind of person I want to be and choosing to do what it takes to be that kind of person.” Then I consider the following sets of questions.
Ego is not the same as self-esteem. One must learn to build self-esteem through internal validation and stop depending upon external validators to build a false sense of ego. What does this mean to you?
Alright, what does this mean to me? From an early age, I was conscious of not having as much confidence as I would have liked. I was intimidated by other children, and by new concepts, activities, and challenges. Recognizing that I fared relatively better at academic pursuits than at physical pursuits, I focused on the former as a way to feel happier about myself. I thereby became overconfident and lazy about academic endeavors, leading to failure to live up to my potential. I also failed to learn the value of discipline, perseverance, commitment, and dedication. So, instead of putting effort into improving myself in regard to physical endeavors, I basically threw in the towel, telling myself it wasn’t worth the effort. Further, I failed to learn that it’s detrimental to constantly compare ourselves to others.
Early in my teenage years, I began trying to get attention from peers through practical jokes. It just led to getting in trouble at school. Late in my teenage years, I started to think I could feel better about myself if I could consider myself successful with girls. That gradually grew out of control, leading to my whole sorry history of adultery and evaluating myself based on sexual experiences, at the expense of a more balanced view of myself.
With that background, in the past four years I have radically altered my view of how to evaluate myself and my life. Success with women is no longer a yardstick for me. Instead, I am trying to judge myself based on integrity, effort to support and engage with my wife and kids, and mindfulness.
Define the kind of person you wanted to be prior to discoveries. Before D-day, I wanted to consider myself sexually desirable. If someone wanted me sexually, I thought, I would be confident and successful.
Define the kind of person you want to be now. Again, now I am trying to be a person with integrity and mindfulness who is supportive and present for my family.
Why the change in your definition of who you wanted to be then and who you want to be now? I changed my world view because my old world view almost destroyed my wife, my marriage, and even myself. It simply proved to be dangerous and not rewarding.
What actions, behaviors, and choices are involved in changing into the person you want to be now? Practice makes habits makes a lifestyle. Since D-day, I studied for a year as part of my religious conversion. That helped me think a lot about integrity and what I really value in life. I studied in Rick Reynolds’s Affair Recovery program, which helped me learn a healthier view of love and relationships. In short, it helped me see the need to focus on giving rather than on receiving. I chose to be with my wife and to try to help her. I renew that choice and that commitment regularly. I chose to practice accountability.
I really think my self-talk and new world view have been working perfectly well, in terms of helping me to not even be tempted by sexual malfeasance. I read and research and consult professionals to try to identify some clinical diagnosis for my previous malfeasance, though I still really think the problem was moral and spiritual rather than clinical, and that it came from my intentional selfish choices rather than from some inability to control myself.
Well then, you may ask, if I made such selfish choices am I not a sociopath? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I will again ask a professional that question. Please read my recent post on this topic.
How are you accountable to yourself? Every day I wake up knowing I want to make moral decisions and to behave with integrity. Armed with that knowledge, the rest is automatic. I make good and moral decisions because I want to make good and moral decisions. In the past I made bad and amoral decisions because I wanted to make bad and amoral decisions. I’ve never cheated and lied inadvertently, by mistake, or as the result of some accident or loss of control. I’ve only done so by consciously choosing to do so.
Those of you who are not me will find that answer frustrating. I understand. I’m saying I’m in control because I want to be in control. Who can prove that? Who but me can believe that? I also can’t prove God exists, nor can I disprove it. I can neither prove nor disprove that I love my wife. I can neither prove nor disprove that she loves me. But, I know these things to be true. I hold myself accountable for making good and moral decisions. I can never prove that to anyone. The evidence may perhaps be the fact that I have been absolutely, purely faithful to my promises about sexual behavior for four years to date.
What are the signs to watch for that show you are slipping in being accountable to yourself? Does this question mean, how can you tell I’ve suddenly changed my mind about wanting to be moral and wanting to live with integrity? You can tell, my dear wife, by my behavior. Am I faithful? Am I attentive? Am I focused on spouse and home instead of self? I can never slip. I can choose evil. But, I won’t, never again. I simply want to be a better person now. And, as often as I can, each day, I’m proving to myself that I can be.
Are you wondering whether I might again choose evil and also deceive you into believing I am still motivated to do good? I again don’t have a perfectly satisfying answer. I know this won’t happen. But, how can you or anyone else but me believe it won’t happen? I do try to use accountability measures to help ease your fears of the unknown. Accountability includes passing four polygraphs, making very frequent phone calls home, sharing all accounts and devices, and absolutely minimizing any time away from home. Is it foolproof? From my point of view, it is. From anyone else’s point of view, it probably is not foolproof. At this point, I would welcome views from readers on this conundrum.