Monthly Archives: October 2016

How to help your spouse heal from your affair

Today I re-read Linda J. MacDonald’s excellent pamphlet, How to Help Your Spouse Heal from Your Affair.  I believe I am heeding all her advice.  But, I also know I need to constantly remind myself and push myself to get it right.  And, of course, during and even after the infidelity, I have already made many of the mistakes of which she warns.  It’s well written, and I highly recommend it.

 

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The Differences Between Boy And Man Psychology

We found an interesting article by this name, written by Jordan Gray, and published September 3, 2013. I’d recommend it.

“Victims feel like the entire world is plotting against them,” writes Gray. “Their life sucks because of other people.” Yes, this form of “boy think” or “child think” dogged me from a young age. I blamed God, my parents, and later my wife for my unhappiness, failing to take responsibility for it myself.

Gray points to the value of being decisive, not passive. “When you are young, the majority of your decisions are made for you,” he continues. “Decisions regarding your clothing, food, and life’s schedule are largely decided by your parents. . . . For many men, a lifestyle lacking in experience ultimately produces an indecisive man. . . . A mature man knows what he wants in life. He has goals and intentions that he is confidently striding towards.” This struck a chord for me because I remember feeling particularly frustrated by my lack of options as a child. My parents chose everything for me, including what to wear at any given moment, what to eat and when, with whom I could play, and how I could spend my time. And, I felt like that continued well into adolescence. Compared to my peers, I thought, my parents dictated every aspect of my life for an unusually long time. I have to suspect that being treated as a child for so long retarded my psychological growth, delaying my mental and emotional maturity.

Gray says, “For some men, this sense of needing to have someone take care of them never fully goes away. . . . In a boy’s younger years, he takes resources (or value) from his environment. He is self-involved and doesn’t do much of anything to contribute to the people around him. . . . A mature man exists to serve… his friends, family, loved ones, and society at large.” This also reminds me of my belief that immaturity was one of the root causes of my selfishness. I was so used to everything being done for me that I failed to start taking responsibility for my choices, real-life consequences, and my own happiness.

“Many of the world’s problems can be traced back to masculinity… specifically boy psychology.” Gray says. “It isn’t that masculinity itself is to blame for society’s problems… it’s that the men who are running the world haven’t transitioned from boys to mature men. True mature masculine energy wants what is best for the community and the world at large. Immature boy-like energy is selfish to a fault. It is this greed and emotional immaturity that causes the world to stagnate on many levels.” This tracks with my belief that many problems of men behaving badly — ranging from criminality to gangs to war crimes — stem from many of us failing to learn that being a man is less about gender and more about growing up.

Can we quantify compulsive behavior?

Lesson 22 of Recovery Nation says:  Consider a very simple ritual that you have engaged in.  It then prescribes a series of exercises aimed at measuring it.  Here’s my response.  I’ll be interested to see where this leads, in future lessons.

Regarding unhealthy rituals, the one that continues to trouble me from time to time is compulsively tidying the house or engaging in “to-do list” tasks, even at the expense of focusing on more important or urgent things or at the expense of focusing on relationships.

Identify three or four elements of that ritual (e.g. physical sensory stimulation; danger; orgasm; accomplishment). Accomplishment and power seem to apply. The former is about the feeling of having done something. The latter is, I think, about control, control of my own life and world. Perhaps I use tidying as a self-soothing mechanism when I feel overwhelmed by change, unpredictability, or competing demands.

For each element, assign a relative number for the amount of stimulation you think you derive from this particular element. These numbers are relevant only to you and in relation to other elements that you experience. On the scale of one to three, I think both accomplishment and power would rate a three.

For each element, consider the effects of each of the three filters on the stimulation derived from that element. Does it increase the stimulation? Decrease the stimulation? Have no effect? Have a mixed effect (as in, sometimes it increases, other times it decreases)?. How can I apply time, intensity, and habituation to accomplishment and to power? Instead of using the term “stimulation,” I think it makes more sense to think of these elements of compulsive tidying or compulsively following my “to-do list” as contributing to my sense of relief or satisfaction.  

So, when applying the time filter to the accomplishment element, I think time does progressively increase my sense of relief from the compulsive behavior. The longer I do it in a given session, the more relieved I am. Perhaps I’d give time about a seven, on the scale of one to ten. What about habituation? Does my relief resulting from the compulsive behavior decrease as I become more accustomed to it? I don’t think so. I have not experienced that. So, I’d give habituation a one. How about intensity? Does my relief increase when I am able to focus more intensely on the compulsive tidying or “to-do listing?” I think it does increase somewhat. Maybe I’d give intensity a five.

Let me try to apply the three filters to the power element now. Do I feel a greater sense of control as I spend more time on a given session of tidying or to-do listing? Yes, I think I do. I’d call that a ten, perhaps. Similarly, I give intensity a ten for this element. What about habituation? Does my sense of relief from tidying and to-do listing decrease as I become more accustomed to it? I don’t think I’ve felt or observed that kind of effect. Perhaps I’d give a rating of one to the habituation filter for the power element.

Cognitive distortions, revisited

I thought further on this. Some of the most disturbing examples, aside from sexual malfeasance, are examples I don’t yet fully understand. I don’t know how to fit them into the cognitive distortion categories. I suspect there are many examples that I don’t recall at the moment. Here are a few that I do recall. I welcome advice on how to categorize these and how to address them.

My wife continually did a lot of research on a particular retirement question that worried me. Despite her thorough research, I questioned it and expressed continued doubts and fears. No matter what information she found, no matter what expert from my company affirmed what she was saying as accurate, I continued to express doubt and fear for many years.  I have always had the highest respect for my wife’s intelligence, knowledge, logic, and research. Yet, I let my irrational fears do the talking for me instead of just accepting the facts as true.

My wife once said she would make a mural on the nursery wall. Instead of being supportive, I said something hurtful about doubting she would find the time to complete it. I also bitched and whined about moving furniture, buying paint, and other things that highlighted my laziness and my failure to be supportive. I really didn’t mean to hurt her. But, I see that it was my negativity speaking for me in a way that got the best of me, threatening my relationship on account of my skepticism about the future.

I used to say the glass is not just half empty, but it also is broken and someone pissed in it. I really meant that as a joke. But, I suspect it speaks to my inner negativity. I have stopped saying that joke, in any case.

I used to have unrealistic demands of my son in terms of sports. It may be similar to my never-ending expectations of work, giving, flattery, and attention from my wife. In short, I saw them in terms of what they could do for me, not in terms of just valuing them as individuals and valuing my relationship with them. I have been trying very hard to change that.

The examples of me not listening to logic and facts, and instead just listening to my fears, negativity, and belief in my own knowledge, were common. I have struggled to change that view and that behavior. I truly don’t want to be so negative and discouraging. And, I now try to remind myself that such a view often prevents me from learning, growing, and succeeding.

I also do a lot of black-and-white thinking. One example is my recent difficulty thinking through how I could fit both therapy and being a Leader in one of my son’s clubs. Faced with both, I initially panicked, thinking I would only be able to do one of those two things. Only later, after getting through the initial push of learning the Club system and doing the initial planning, did I find that I could manage both.

I’m sure there’s more I should say on this topic. For the moment, this is all I really understand about it.  But, I do have one more post on this that I am still writing.  I hope to work on that tomorrow.

More cognitive distortions and a possible source problem

Here are a few more cognitive distortions I can recall. Our oldest son went through a phase when he was afraid to use the monkey bars in front of other children. I don’t know whether he was afraid he wouldn’t do well or if there was some other problem. It reminded me that I had encountered similar problems in my own life, starting in early childhood. I don’t recall specific examples, but I often hesitated to do things like that, particularly in front of people. I think I was overly afraid of failure and irrationally convinced that everyone was watching me and judging me.

A similar problem is what I call the “cold swimming pool dilemma.” I love to swim. But, I often am overly hesitant to get in the pool when I detect even the slightest hint of a cool temperature. Almost always, I ultimately get in the pool and am ultimately very happy I did so. Then, however, I get a bit disappointed in myself for my initial hesitation.

There’s also the raw chicken example. My wife, naturally, cautioned me not to undercook chicken. I learned cooking quite late in life. It took me years to listen properly to her advice, when it should have only taken me minutes. Really, I’m a slow learner and a poor listener. It does remind me of lessons I could have learned sooner from parents, teachers, and peers had I listened better. I think I was more concerned about my ego, and hurt by the criticism than I should have been. Instead, I should have focused on seeing the criticism as constructive and helpful in my learning and growing.

I have mentioned my laziness with moving furniture, one of many examples. I am often overly daunted by work or other endeavors. I have to challenge myself to stand up to such tasks, but also to not overcompensate by working excessively when others are not working.

One more thought for today is another reminder to myself that inner cultural conflict was a big root problem for me. I mention it again because a recent discussion with my therapist suggested it’s not an uncommon problem. Basically, moving from childhood in a Victorian, provincial culture to adulthood in a cosmopolitan culture overwhelmed me with mixed messages and conflicting desires. I took too many decades to reconcile the conflict in my mind. In the meantime, the inner conflict was a fertile breeding ground for cognitive distortions. I took too many decades to grow up.

Cognitive distortions, redux

To be thorough, let me take a look at these again and see whether I can apply them to behaviors of mine aside from sexual malfeasance. Perhaps that will also yield challenges that are more timely, instead of rehashing old lessons. Here are the additional examples I can find, specifically relating to catastrophizing and comparing.

Catastrophizing. My experience with this may be similar to my experience with all-or-Vnothing thinking. I told myself that if my mate remembered one or more sexual encounters with men who were more desirable or more skilled than I, she would never really want me and would only feel like she ended up with me as a sort of consolation prize. I believed I could never measure up to men she had known before me.

I don’t know whether this is really related, but I have been accused of being too pessimistic or focusing too much on negative possibilities. For example, I worry a great deal about finding a new job after my upcoming forced retirement. When I express these fears out loud, I guess I sound quite depressing and fatalistic. Inside my own mind, I know quite well that I will make and implement a logical strategy for the job search. But, I am told that my verbal expressions give listeners the impression I do not intend to try or that I have given up hope, even when that is not the case.

Comparing. Clearly, I unwisely compared myself to my mate, other men she had known, my peers, and even to the imaginary “average American guy” that I thought I knew from so many Hollywood productions. Moving beyond questions of sex, I’m sure that at various times I have inappropriately compared myself to others in terms of jobs, income, achievements, physical attributes, strength or fitness, life experiences, skills, and appearances.

Cognitive distortions 

I keep asking my therapist why I did bad things.  She said it doesn’t seem like I’m a sociopath.  She suggested one of my problems might be cognitive distortions.  I did some thinking about whether the various types of cognitive distortions apply in my case.

When I read the examples given, it was initially difficult for me to apply any of those modes of thinking to myself. Yet, my wife has accused me of all of those at one point or another.

All-or-nothing thinking. I do think I’ve done this before. I’m trying to recall specific examples. I suppose that as a child I told myself things such as, “If I can’t play that game well, I don’t want to play it at all.” I also think my mother sometimes contributed to those kinds of thoughts by agreeing that it was fine to give up on some endeavors rather than encouraging me to try things without being discouraged. Perhaps I later sabotaged my own relationships, with my wife, for example, by expecting that her entire sexual experience should consist of me or that she should have no history of sexual encounters that might have been as stimulating as with me. When reality threatened that expectation of mine, I perhaps told myself I therefore could not succeed in satisfying her sexually or being physically desirable to her. I think I then jumped from that belief into a sea of self-pity.

Catastrophizing. My experience with this may be similar to my experience with all-or-nothing thinking. I told myself that if my mate remembered one or more sexual encounters with men who were more desirable or more skilled than I, she would never really want me and would only feel like she ended up with me as a sort of consolation prize. I believed I could never measure up to men she had known before me.

Magnifying. Perhaps I magnified, in my mind, how much my mate, or peers, or even strangers might look down on me for being, in my view, relatively inexperienced sexually. Perhaps I magnified, in my mind, the extent to which my mate might fondly recall “good experiences” she had before we started dating. And, of course, for some reason I don’t fully understand, I magnified the relative importance of sex as a factor contributing to success and happiness, simultaneously neglecting or minimizing the importance of academic endeavor, athletics, integrity, family, or almost anything else.

Discounting or minimizing the positive. I’m sure I’ve done this. As a kid I think I sometimes downplayed successes or good fortune. I think I recall feeling embarrassed or annoyed when my parents made a big deal of positive things. Accurately or not, perhaps I thought they were being insincere. Or, perhaps I thought their positive reactions were over-the-top, out of proportion to the significance of the event or occurrence. Were they trying too hard? Or, was I being too critical? I also remember my father telling me, more than once, to count my blessings. I don’t think I ever really did that until after my wife discovered my infidelity (we call that D-day), after I almost lost our marriage. Is failure to feel real gratitude toward God and others a form of discounting the positive? Is taking my wife, kids, career, and other things for granted a form of discounting the positive?

Emotional reasoning. Perhaps this is what allowed me to suspend reality in the face of otherwise unacceptable risks. Rationally, I should have known that frequently picking up prostitutes incurred serious risk of getting caught, getting arrested, losing my job, ruining my reputation and my wife’s, and getting a disease from frequent unprotected sex. On some level I was very aware of those risks. And, no, I did not seek disease, humiliation, or other ills. I think what I did was a lot of inexplicably illogical self-talk, telling myself things would not happen to me or that those things only happen to other people.

Labeling. I don’t think I labeled myself. I may have labeled others. For example, I said cruel things to my wife and my former girlfriend, expressing my anger at the fact they had sexual experiences before me.

Selective abstraction or tunnel vision. Maybe this describes my disproportionate focus on worrying about my sexual experience, prowess, and desirability, often at the expense of other normal aspects of life.

“Should” and “must” statements or perfectionism. Maybe this was when I told myself a woman should be significantly less sexually experienced than her mate. Maybe it was when I told myself I should be the most desirable man my mate had ever known.

Comparing. Clearly, I unwisely compared myself to my mate, other men she had known, my peers, and even to the imaginary “average American guy” that I thought I knew from so many Hollywood productions.

Mind reading. At various points in life, I recall thinking everyone was looking at me critically when, more likely, they were minding their own business and thinking of other things.

Personalization. I do think I often took things personally even when others might have meant them matter-of-factly. Maybe this is why I had a hard time listening to constructive criticism, whether from my parents in childhood or from bosses or peers later in life. It was only in the years since D-day that I have made a conscious effort to not take things personally and to try to see the other person’s perspective.

Goals without strategies 

After my last post, I thought more about it, realizing that perhaps I did fail to achieve three important goals. I had promised four years ago that I would never lie again. I sincerely believed what I was saying as I made that promise.

Yet, since then, I lied to my wife by not telling her I was covertly smoking for several months. Also, since then, I lied to her by saying I did not click on an Internet link purporting to show “women you won’t believe exist” or something stupid like that. In the former case I had told myself it was not a threat to our marriage because it did not involve sexual malfeasance; an irrelevant excuse given that lying itself was a threat to our marriage. In the latter case, I told myself that I hadn’t “really clicked” the link because while the page was slowly loading on the screen (though I did see a few of the photos) I was able to close it and direct my attention to something healthier; also irrelevant because it overlooks the fact that I did not immediately tell my wife the whole truth.

How can I keep this promise and achieve this goal going forward? In the smoking example, I could have prevented that failure by imagining that my wife, boss, mother, or anyone else, was with me as I smoked. I also should have just nipped it in the bud right away by immediately calling or writing my wife as soon as the temptation first crossed my mind. The same strategy would have helped with the click-bait sin: imagine I am not alone, and call or write to report the temptation.

Second, I had promised that I would “do recovery work” forever. But, a couple months ago, after we moved to a new house and new job, I lazily started skipping “the work” and just moving on to other activities. Again, I had genuinely believed myself when I had promised to always “do the work.”

How can I prevent this kind of failure in the future? What happened? At the time I was depending heavily on Recovery Nation as my means of doing “the work.” This created a vulnerability in my behavior. It required Internet access, and I did not have reliable internet access for several days during the move. That made it too easy to neglect my good habit of doing “the work.” So, perhaps the solution is that when moving or traveling I should plan ahead and have available some book or writing project that helps me do “the work” without the internet. I should try to anticipate my own lazy excuses and try to mitigate them.

Third, I had promised I would always regularly consult a mental health practitioner. Yet, I let too many weeks pass after our most recent move before finding a new therapist. I think I had convinced myself it would be too difficult to find a new therapist in our new location without help.

How could I have prevented this failing? Now that I know it is possible to consult a therapist via phone or computer, from anywhere in the world, I should be able to retain the same therapist for months or years. In addition, perhaps, if my current therapist ever becomes permanently unavailable, I should make the search for a replacement top priority. Top priority means it would be the first non-work endeavor I pursue each morning until it is completed. That certainly means it would come before compulsive tidying of the house, pleasure reading, or other optional projects.

Goal setting

Lesson 21 of Recovery Nation is about goal setting.  It posed the following questions.

A. What large goals have you attempted in your life and failed? Why do you suppose you failed?

When I think about it, I can’t recall ever failing to achieve a goal when I sincerely and thoughtfully made a goal.

B. What large goals have you attempted in your life and succeeded? Why do you suppose you were able to succeed?

I made it a goal to be faithful to my wife and to abstain from porn and masturbation in perpetuity from July 21, 2012. To date, I have succeeded. The goal was specific, measurable, positive, meaningful, and consistent with my values.

C. List one recovery goal that you have and break it down into as many smaller, measurable tasks as necessary for you to manage it successfully. If you find this difficult, then you are probably starting off with too general of a recovery goal. Make it specific.

My goal is to do no less than 180 minutes of “recovery” study and introspection each week. That means I should do at least 26 minutes each day, I should make that my first priority when I am not actively engaged with family or work, and I should not go to sleep until I’ve met my daily commitment.

Recovering from addiction, or addicted to recovery?

Here’s an interesting passage from Recovery Nation:

Unfortunately, the inevitable result of such negative motivations for recovery (e.g. ending the addiction to avoid negative consequences) is that the addictive behaviors often do change (at least temporarily). But because the core of the person has not been altered; because their basic life management skills remain immature, they are still left with the only known outlet to emotional management: addiction. Except now, new behaviors must be introduced to fill the void of the existing patterns that are being changed. So, instead of being addicted to pornography, you may now find yourself addicted to online chatting. Or instead of affairs, you may now find yourself relying on masturbation for comfort. Or food. Or alcohol. Or religion. Or recovery.

This touches on one of the positive things Recovery Nation offers, in my view:  the idea that stopping the inappropriate behavior and inappropriate thinking can be accomplished without continuing to follow some therapy program or group for the rest of your life.  This passage suggests that it is possible, and that the key is having the right motivation.

Again, however, this portion of Recovery Nation still strikes me as not relevant to my own goals.  I’m not working on addiction.  I’m working on moral and emotional development.  And, I’m not seeking recovery from some mental ailment.  I  seek recovery of the loving relationship with my wife that I destroyed.

I continue working with Recovery Nation, for now.  But, I’d prefer to find some non-theological reading or activities aimed at developing empathy, gratitude, integrity, and morality.

Risky thoughts and situations 

Let’s go back to this question: “What are the signs to watch for that show you are slipping in being accountable to yourself?” I still struggle to understand it. Perhaps it means: “What are risk factors that I should avoid or mitigate in order to be quite certain I won’t be tempted to do something evil?” If that’s what it means, here’s my attempt to brainstorm a list. Perhaps I should state the items in terms that not only identity the risk factors, but that also suggest mitigation strategies.

Avoid self-pity. If I come across some cultural reference in conversation, overheard conversation, events or activities, television, movies (Hollywood is the worst for me, when I think about it), books, magazines, or other media that tempts me to compare myself, my life history, my experiences, my youth, or other aspect of me to others, real or imagined, I should tell myself that sell-pity is a risk and then count my blessings. Also, I should talk to my wife about the temptation.

Avoid being alone with any woman who is not family. If I find myself in such a situation I should seek a public location, talk about my wife, call my wife if possible, and remove myself as soon as possible.

Avoid being alone and bored with the Internet. After doing my work, including personal work, on the Internet, I should get off of it. I should try not to use it unless I am in a setting with other people. I should always imagine my wife, co-worker, son, or someone is right there watching my choices and behaviors.

Competition

When I see MC talk of his academic failures, I sit a bit stunned by his belief in that evaluation. I think of his fear of his mom when he placed second at the district spelling bee and how he thought of himself as a “loser” for coming in second. I look at his academic record, and no he was not valedictorian, nor did he go to Harvard. Still, his graduate school was in the top ten in the US for his field and he graduated with a near 4.0. I know when he looks back on his college and graduate school career, he knows he did not give it his best effort and, so perhaps, some of his disappointment stems from that fact. I know I can personally identify with that feeling as well when I think of my undergraduate studies. And, this points out to me what I see as the “wrong” kind of competition versus the “right” kind.

I want MC, me and our children to each compete against ourselves, to do our personal best and seek to improve compared to where we were before. When we see others have thoughts, ideas, practices that improve outcome, then by all means we should learn about those thoughts, ideas and practices. What I don’t think is appropriate is the thought that we must be “better than” others. The only person we each need to be better than is ourself. There will always be somebody who does better, who knows more, has more, who goes further, etc. There will always be somebody who does worse, knows less, has less, goes less far, etc. But, if we use such things as a metric to feel good about who we are or where we are in life, then we are setting ourselves up to either gloat or be disappointed. Comparing ourselves to others is the surest path to building false ego and falling into the self-pity trap (two sides of the same coin if you ask me). We are also setting ourselves up to be afraid to fail, and so afraid to try.  But, if we are competing against ourselves, we can look at our improvement over time based purely on our willingness to work toward personal improvement, on our willingness to do the work, no matter how it compares to others.

 

 

Common themes

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.

Hard to let go of the gray

I know I have written before about never again wearing rose-colored glasses and now finding myself too often wearing gray-colored glasses. I have moments where I let light and laughter in and it feels so freeing, so good. Soon after those very moments I rebel against them fearing happiness, fearing that it might mean I am reaching for those rose-colored glasses again. That fear is my armor, my shield. Letting it down for moments here and there is one thing, but letting it go is something else all too scary.  Rationally, I think I know that gray and rose are not the only choices. But, somehow my heart is having a hard time believing it to be true. I don’t want to wear any fucking glasses anymore. Sigh.