All posts by TigerLily

What will become of our children?

One of my greatest worries is how all of this will impact, has impacted, our children.

Our older one remembers d-day and ultimate d-day. MC had to talk with him about it because I was a walking zombie and everybody around us noticed, especially him. Our older son knew that Daddy had an inappropriate friendship, he cheated. Our youngest son, at that time was told that Daddy hurt Mommy’s feelings really badly by being selfish and not being a good friend, husband or father.

We didn’t know, but our older son told our younger son exactly how Daddy had hurt Mommy’s feelings. For the last several years he would ask “Why is Daddy so extra nice to Mommy?” or, after hearing one of the many songs on the radio about the topic, ask, “Why do people cheat?” He finally came out and told us that big brother had shared things with him and asked, “is it true, Daddy cheated on Mommy?” We answered his questions, simply, letting him lead the way.  Also, including big brother in this to ensure he asked any questions he wanted to ask.  It was all little brother who asked the questions. They don’t know who or how many, or what types of people. They do know that Dad broke Mom’s heart by cheating throughout our marriage, more than once. Mom only found out about it in 2012. Yes, we knew one of them. Yes, they knew Daddy was married with a family. Yes, those weekly appointments we had for several years were to help us figure this all out. Yes, Daddy’s special Skype call that cannot be interrupted is with a counselor. Yes, we still talk about it. And, yes, we still work on it. And, as to the whys, MC has explained the selfishness, the self-pity, the never counting his blessings and what he is doing to change those ways of thinking and why we make it such a priority that the boys don’t approach life in that way. The boys still see me in pain. The boys see MC trying.

Our older son makes comments about how Dad is really trying, he’s a much better Dad now and how being married for so long is so rare and special. I think he is worried I will divorce MC. I want to reassure him, but I also cannot make promises when I don’t know what the future holds. The questions from younger son about Daddy being so nice to Mommy have largely stopped. We’ve told them we can arrange for them to talk to a counselor any time, or they can ask us anything or talk to another family member who knows. But, we’ve also explained that this is something private for our family and not for discussion with those who do not already know. I worry that this is asking too much of them. What are we doing to our kids? How can we help them best?

I’ve asked each counselor, should we bring in the kids? Each one has had some variation of, “If school, hobbies or friendships begin to suffer, if they become withdrawn, or they want to just talk to someone besides MC or me, then it is worth doing. Otherwise, do not force counseling upon them.” Still, I do worry.

Another brain worm

Here is what has been eating away at my brain. I’m not sure why this entered my thoughts when it did, but here it is eating away.

When MC was with his first AP (a COW) back in 1998, she tagged along on a business trip to Chicago with him. During this trip he told her, “I am happier than I’ve been in years.” Now, understand, MC and I had only been together for 4 years at this point. So, what I hear is “I’m happier with you than I ever was with my wife.” Add to that the reality that, prior to d-day, MC never expressed that level of happiness about his life with me, not even when our kids were born. He can say those words all he wants now, but such words now seem like an after-the-fact lame attempt that just leaves me feeling empty inside.

We stayed up late talking last night. He tried explaining to me that he was happy for the wrong reasons, it was shallow and based on the illicitness of the behavior itself. That didn’t really help me at all. He tried putting it in writing today, sending me this e-mail:

I’ll have to remember to specifically ask Counselor J if there is something — aside from the obvious — psychologically significant about people deriving pleasure from illicit behavior.  Regardless, that’s the whole point of the values-focused RN study; to change the source of pleasure from wrong values to right values.  That’s what all sixty-one of those lessons has addressed so far.

Anyway, yesterday was wonderful, in my view; full of genuinely and correctly happy moments for me.

Somehow that doesn’t really help me either. I don’t know what to do or even explain what it is I need from him in all of this, what I need for me, what I need from me. I just don’t know, but I know it is something.

ETA: Actually it is clear to me what triggered this thinking. MC’s affair with this co-worker started with them eating meals alone together. . .

A Pence for your thoughts

Ok, all, I’ve been seeing much to-do about VP Pence, his wife and their agreement to not have a meal alone with a person of the opposite sex, nor to attend functions where alcohol is featured without the other also in attendance. I do not support Pence’s politics in any way, shape or form. I, also, see many of my liberal friends trash talking the Pence’s decision for their marriage. And, I find myself so very sad to see such lack of understanding for such a decision. But, also find myself asking how far is too far?

Here is where I am at on this topic. Every actual professional lunch or dinner Mindless has attended, included more than one other person. When a lunch or dinner invitation was given by a colleague, it was not because work was needing to be done, but more to build a social connection. And, after all we’ve been through, that is not a pertinent enough reason to go to lunch or dinner alone with a colleague of the opposite gender. Surely, there are one or two more colleagues that can be invited, or spouses could be included?

Thoughts anyone?

But, he did it with them first

Here’s an issue I see in myself as well as in other betrayed spouses. It is not so much a complaint as just the reality of a feeling.

MindlessCraft has done a lot to “make-up” for shit. He has taken me to expensive hotels and luxurious spas, weekends away, romantic dinner dates (not just eating out together because he has to do something for birthday or anniversary), and given flowers more times than I can count. He has done far more of these things for me than he ever did for any AP. Yet, he did it for them first (during our marriage). And, it is an awful feeling to me. He may now do such things out of love for me, but I cannot help but realize he is only doing it after he did it for someone else first.

I explained it to him like this. This is going to be GRAPHIC, but it is the only way to make the point. I don’t like blow jobs, and though I’ve tried from time-to-time, I’ve never given one to completion and certainly have never swallowed. Now, I tell MC, imagine I cheat on you and then not only give the guy a blow job (without him even asking), but take him all the way and swallow too. All before I ever did it for you, even though we’ve been married for YEARS. You will always know I did it for him first. How would that make you feel?

And, that example really made him “get it.” He understands. But, what can you do about that?  You cannot change the past.

Unconditional Love

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I am a fan of ChumpLady and find value in so much of what she writes. She recently wrote on unconditional love. Though I respect her greatly and completely understand the source of her perspective, I personally feel that too many people on all sides of this issue are misconstruing the meaning and intent of “unconditional love.”

First, when we do loving and kind things for others, we do them because we want to do them. Perhaps, we simply want to help, or bring a touch of joy, kindness, and/or laughter to someone’s day. Perhaps we just want to show someone we think lovingly about them in some way. We do not do these things with an expectation of anything in return.

Second, we should expect that we treat each other ethically, respectfully, and with dignity and decency. We should also set boundaries for ourselves that do not allow others to treat us poorly.

But, these are two SEPARATE things. One does not beget the other. I should do the first because I choose to do it out of love. All too often, we perform one expecting the other. Both are good, healthy and appropriate things, but expecting one to bring about the other is a fool’s errand.

Prior to d-day, I thought if I did enough for my husband, a friend or a family member, I would earn their respect and love. This was fucked up thinking. Prior to d-day, MindlessCraft thought if I loved him, I would do x, y, and z. This was fucked up thinking. Now, when I choose to do loving acts for another it is simply because I want to do it, not because I am trying to win love, respect or approval. Admittedly, after d-day, my desire to do such things was very limited. And, I don’t want MindlessCraft doing loving acts because I expect him now to do them, they need to be because he wants to do them, otherwise they really are emotionally vacant acts. So, yes, love is about what we give (because we desire to give it), not what we take.

However, respect, dignity, decency and ethics are essential components of our humanity. We have a right, irrespective of anything to do with love, to expect to be treated with such humanity, from all people, including ourselves and our partner. If someone does not treat us with such humanity, then they are not a safe person. Even if you love someone, if they are not safe then they should not be in your life.

So, this is why we say, above all else, the cheating partner must work on being a safe person. While there are many components to this, we see these as a great place for the cheater to start:

  1. Providing safety for the betrayed, regardless of the decision to divorce or reconcile. If reconciliation is the path, then the cheater must do all possible to put the risk of reconciliation on their own shoulders and off of the shoulders of the betrayed. If divorce is the path, a cheater truly wanting to reform, should provide for the safety of their partner and children regardless.
  2. Learning to count their blessings, which is the first step toward eradicating self-pity.
  3. Rewiring of their decision making processes to be based on fundamental core values instead of emotional based thoughts and/or reactions (e.g., self-pity, desire for external validation, etc.). Or, another way to put it, “growing the fuck up!” Remember being a MAN is not the difference between man and woman, nor is it the difference between straight and gay. Instead, it IS the difference between being an adult and being a child.

Another part of OUR STORY

There is another part of “our story” I want to share, have been very afraid to share, but with everything going on in our country, I just cannot stay silent.

A month after MC and I married, I became pregnant. As you know, those beginning days were filled with fighting. I had started a new job a few months prior and my insurance did not cover pregnancy until I was on the policy for 12 months. I had always wanted to be a mom. But, MC wanted me to have an abortion. He didn’t threaten divorce, just made it very clear he had no interest or desire in being a dad so early on in our marriage, or having the financial burden of an uncovered birth on our shoulders. I was so afraid of bringing our baby into such an environment, of not being able to give my child a better life than I experienced. At that moment, as much as I wanted to be a mom, I wanted our marriage to have a fighting chance more.

I took a few days off of work, one for the procedure and one to recover. I was so sad, I ended-up telling close people I had suffered a miscarriage. It wasn’t true, but I so needed some love and support.

A few months later, MC’s mom was pestering him about making sure I didn’t end up pregnant. He told her it had already happened, but that I had an abortion. She was relieved. She spent years trying to persuade MC to not have children with me. He eventually didn’t listen.

When we were finally ready to have a baby, it took five years and medical help. I know if I had kept that first baby, life would have been different, not necessarily better, just different. One of those possible differences is that I would not have the children we now have. And, I wouldn’t want anything to change their presence in my life. Still, I know I’ve carried anger and sadness inside that MC didn’t say, “Don’t worry about a thing, we will find a way to make this work, I’m so excited you are having our baby.” I’ve carried anger and sadness inside of me that MC used the abortion as a way to reassure his mom, instead of saying, “Mom, back off. TL is my wife, I love her and want to have a family with her.”

All that being said, I completely support a woman’s right to choose. Also, I support conditions that allow a woman to make that choice without fear of how she will pay for the birth and support her baby once born.

Even if…

Even if it could be true, I doubt I will ever unquestionably believe when MindlessCraft tells me I’m beautiful, intelligent, talented or any other complementary thing. First, all of his past actions make such words seem hollow to me. Second, and likely more important, I need to learn to believe it for myself regardless of MindlessCraft’s opinion. But, I am having a very difficult time finding how to do that. How do I learn to see myself through my own eyes and in a positive light????

As I contemplate these feelings, as I contemplate the world around us, This quote from Judith Lewis Herman really speaks to me somehow…

Traumatic events destroy the sustaining bonds between individual and community. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection with others. The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience. Trauma isolates; the group re-creates a sense of belonging. Trauma shames and stigmatizes; the group bears witness and affirms. Trauma degrades the victim; the group exalts her. Trauma dehumanizes the victim; the group restores her humanity.

Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of generosity. Something in herself that the victim believes to be irretrievably destroyed—faith, decency, courage—is reawakened by an example of common altruism. Mirrored in the actions of others, the survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality…

Houston, we have a problem.

Perhaps, I am overreacting, but I don’t feel like I am. Perhaps I am spiraling, perhaps I am being a bitch, perhaps it is justified, perhaps all, perhaps none. I really need some feedback.

MC is traveling, again. I know that his current position requires it much more than his last position, but similar to some previous positions. I’ve been relatively ok with it. He text messages me when he boards the plane, when he arrives, when he goes to a meal and with whom he goes to this meal. When he gets back from dinner he calls. He is available to take my call or respond to messages all through the night. He text messages me “good morning” every morning right when he wakes up (usually before I’ve woken up). He texts me when he goes to the gym, when he returns, when he hits the shower, calls after the shower before he goes to breakfast, text messages me when he heads to work from breakfast, and also if he is going into a meeting and will be out of contact. You get the point, pretty much every step of the way. And, even still, I know it is no guarantee. I usually don’t respond to much of these updates, but I’ve grown accustomed to these little notes when he travels.

This trip, his time is an hour earlier than our time. So, this morning, just before I go wake the kids for school at 6 AM, I am looking over my e-mails. An e-mail from our attorney was in my inbox. It’s a business issue that has me a very stressed (former tenant broke lease), and MC knows it. It was a short note explaining next steps and I forwarded it to MC, asking for his thoughts. I’ve been handling the whole thing without any help from MC. But was just getting dragged into more drama than I can handle right now. He was supposed to be taking this drama off my shoulders. It is now 7 AM and kids are just waiting for the bus and I see he never texted me “good morning.” I know he has been up for at least an hour at this point, as he is a morning person and exercises early. No “good morning,” no “heading to the gym.”

Here’s a copy of our conversation:

Me: Where are you???

MC: Back from gym. Ready to shower.

Skype call ensues. Don’t understand why he didn’t respond to my e-mail, at least with a loving kind response to not worry. Or, at least, to text “good morning” as normal. I got NOTHING! I express fear as his MO when cheating was to ignore my existence. Ignore calls. Ignore e-mails. He has a variety of explanations. At first it was because it was so early, he didn’t want to wake me. I call complete Bullshit.  He knew I was up, I needed to wake kids and I also sent him an e-mail. He also has always texted good morning, often before I was even awake. Then he states that things have been going so well, that he got lazy. Continuing by stating he was focused on gym time and was being selfish and clearly still needs to be flexible. I explain that even if that is all that is going on, it is still completely hurtful that I didn’t rate above his workout.

More texts:

Me: It’s not about being flexible. It’s about the fact that after 4.5 years, the gym is still your top priority. If that wasn’t true, there would be no need for flexibility.

MC: I understand

Me: What do you understand?

MC: I was selfish

Me: What was your top priority.

Me: The gym was/is your selfish pursuit. OWs were your selfish pursuit. Never me. Always someone or something else, never me.

MC: I understand nothing should be a higher or more urgent priority than communicating with you and reassuring you.

MC: I know

MC: I need to show you, and show myself, that I can make you my highest priority.

Me: 💔

MC: I can’t view the icon on this device.

Me: Broken heart

MC: Is it a tear?

MC: Me too.

Me: It shouldn’t be as hard as it is,

MC: I know.

MC: It’s my fault, my habit of self-centeredness

Me: Perhaps you are trying to force yourself to do something that you actually just really don’t want to do.

MC: That’s what I must continue working to overcome.

Me: Perhaps you don’t really love me. If you did Forcing this wouldn’t be an issue. Just like you don’t have to force yourself to exercise, because you actually love doing it.

Me: You never forced yourself with others or for gym, because you wanted those. The fact that you have to force yourself with me says it is because you don’t actually want me.

MC: I love you.

MC: I want you.

MC: I have bad, selfish instincts and habits.

Me: Why am I not one of your selfish instincts?

MC: good question

MC: It’s not lack of love

MC: It’s a bad part of me that I have to correct.

Me: And, in the meantime I’m left to feel like I am not important to you.

Me: At least not in action.

MC: I know.

MC: I must work harder.

Me: And you’ve known for a long time, and still…

Me: Words…

MC: I know.

MC: I stumbled today.

Me: No, you willfully and consciously chose to show me that I am not important

MC: I beg your forgiveness.

MC: I see your point.

He calls our teenage son every morning from work to make sure he woke for school, not trusting our son or me will be able to accomplish this amazing feat on our own 

Me: Did you call (teenage child) this AM?

Still no answer after an hour

Me: Did you call (teenage child) this AM?

I take his delay in answering to mean he is scared to answer. 

Me: Stop trying to devise a narrative to control the outcome and just honestly answer, “yes, I did” or “no, I didn’t.”

MC: I did not call (teenage child). Sorry.

MC: Devise a narrative? What?

MC: I failed. Yes, I did. No narrative.

MC: No excuses.

MC: I love you. I failed.

Me: What were you doing instead, given you always call him?

MC: That would have been 5:50, which was 4:50 here. At that time I was trying to sleep, and then I brushed teeth and shaved.

MC: Test

Me: 😡

MC: What does that mean?

MC: I can’t see it too well.

MC: Very sad?

Me: No

MC: Hmm

Me: How about: 🖕

MC: Can’t read it.

MC: Giving up?

MC: Anger?

Me: First was anger

MC: Despair?

Me: Second was middle finger

MC: Thought so.

MC: I know.

MC: Disappointed in myself.

MC: Also, scared and sad.

MC: Definitely not traveling to country A and B next week.

By the way all, I have never heard of such plans in all his plans discussed thus far. First to me that he was going to do yet another trip so soon after this one.

Me: Too bad you have to force yourself to give a shit about me.

Me: I don’t see how we can ever move forward in a healthy way when you only make effort to care out of fear of what you will lose, go through or experience, not because you actually care. I will always fear things going well because you have confirmed that things going well makes you lazy. If you truly care, there is nothing to get lazy about.

Me: The fact that you have to force yourself to care about me is probably the thing that hurts most of all.

MC: I have bad, selfish instincts.

 

If it seems too good to be true. . .

I keep thinking of the old saying, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

We’ve been enjoying a staycation during the winter holidays. We’ve come to some decisions about how to handle our repatriation to America after we leave this country. We all seem to feel so good about the plans, how to make them happen, the much better academic opportunities for the kids, the greater job market for both MC and for me, the much cheaper cost of living than our home city could provide, and still be only a two hour drive from family back home. We are all looking to the future together. We are all excited by the possibilities. Our day-to-day  life in the present is based on being together, working together, re-growing our friendship and what feels like a husband and father focused on love, care, concern, and protection of our family. This is everything I ever wanted. And, yet, I cannot help but have that incessant nagging thought, “if it seems too good to be true. . .”

Circle of selfish interests

As I see the world around us in peril, as I see so many threats to our country’s policies and way forward, as I see all the progress our American society has made being jeopardized, as I see the increased suffering and lack of humanity encroaching on so many parts of our world, I worry about the future.

I know MC feels as I do about threats against non-white, non-Christians in our country.  These threats directly impact him and our family. He tells me that he feels for the plight of others, but we have so many of our own struggles to focus upon. Yet, I have a worry that perhaps the reality is something different. What if the reality is that he only cares about issues that directly impact him, our kids and our family. What if he actually has no real care in the world for the suffering of others that are unlikely to have any direct impact on him or on our family.

I am a huge fan of Thomas Friedman. I recently saw an interview with him where he was talking about the precipice upon which our society now sits. He explained, it is like the change from an agricultural to an industrial society. It is similar to when we transitioned from horse-drawn carriage to automobiles. As we move to a more technologically advanced society, we must help others to feel protected, connected and respected. In the age of intelligent machines, we must remember that our biggest comparative advantage is our humanity.

I realized, MC now treats me and our children with humanity, focusing on anything he can do now to help us feel protected, connected and respected. But, I cannot help but wonder what if it is not so much that he has tamed the selfish beast, as much as he has simply now included the kids and me in his circle of selfish interests?  Is that what is normal for most of us? Is it enough?

What’s wrong with Esther Perel?

Here is a new Economist article on Esther Perel that makes her views on infidelity much more clear than previous things I’ve seen posted to infidelity blogs and forums.

As I’ve said before, many of her premisses on why infidelity occurs are in line with those of Rick Reynolds of AffairRecovery.com, it is what she recommends doing about it that goes in a completely opposite direction.

Like her views, hate her views or something in between, that is completely up to you. But, at least know what she really believes before making that decision.

RELATIONSHIPS
WHAT’S WRONG WITH INFIDELITY?
Americans are increasingly intolerant of adultery, but Esther Perel believes they should take a more European attitude. Emily Bobrow met the country’s most celebrated – and controversial – relationship guru

EMILY BOBROW | DECEMBER/JANUARY 2017

Seth and his girlfriend of many years were already engaged when he discovered she had cheated on him. It was only once, with a co-worker, but the betrayal stung. “I had jealousy, insecurity, anger, fear,” he recalls. “It was really hard to talk about it.” He wondered whether his fiancée’s infidelity meant there was something fundamentally wrong with their otherwise loving relationship. He worried it was a sign that their marriage would be doomed. He also still felt guilty about an indiscretion of his own years earlier, when he’d had a one-night stand with an acquaintance. “I knew that what I had done meant nothing,” said Seth, a New York-based entrepreneur in his early 30s. “It felt like a bit of an adventure, and I went for it.” But anxiety about these dalliances gnawed at his conscience. How could he and his fiancée promise to be monogamous for a lifetime if they were already struggling to stay loyal to each other? Did their momentary lapses of judgment spell bigger problems for their union?
For help answering these questions, Seth and his partner went to Esther Perel, a Belgian-born psychotherapist who is renowned for her work with couples. Her two TED talks – about the challenge of maintaining passion in long-term relationships and the temptations of infidelity – have been viewed over 15m times. Her bestselling 2006 book “Mating in Captivity”, translated into 26 languages, skilfully examined our conflicting needs for domestic security and erotic novelty. Recently she has taken her work further, into more controversial terrain. Her forthcoming book “The State of Affairs”, expected in late 2017, addresses the thorny matter of why people stray and how we should handle it when they do. When Perel is not seeing clients in New York, she is travelling the world speaking to packed conferences and ideas festivals about the elusiveness of desire in otherwise contented relationships. After Seth saw Perel speak at one such conference, he sought her out for guidance with his fiancée.

“Esther helped us understand that perfection is not possible in relationships,” he explains to me. With Perel’s help, Seth and his fiancée have come to embrace a relationship they are calling “monogamish” – that is, they will aspire to be faithful to each other, but also tolerate the occasional fling. “It just never occurred to us that this is something we could strive for,” he says. “But why should everything we built be destroyed by a minor infidelity?”

This view may sound sensible, but it remains heretical. Attitudes towards sex and sexual morality have changed dramatically in the past few decades, with ever fewer Westerners clucking over such things as premarital sex or love between two men or two women, but infidelity is still seen as a nuclear no-go zone in relationships. In fact, studies show that even as we have become more permissive about most things involving either sex or marriage – ever ready to accept couples who marry late, divorce early, forgo children or choose not to marry at all – we have grown only more censorious of philanderers. In a survey of public attitudes in 40 countries from the Pew Research Centre, an American think-tank, infidelity was the issue that earned the most opprobrium around the world. A general survey of public views in America , conducted by the University of Chicago since 1972, has found that Americans are more likely to say extramarital sex is always wrong now than they were throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Younger generations can usually be relied upon to push sexual morality in a more permissive direction, but infidelity is the one area where the young and old seem to agree. In this broadly tolerant age, when so many of us have come around to accepting love in all different shapes and sizes, adultery is the one indulgence that remains out of bounds.

“There is no subject that elicits more fear, gossip and fascination in the realm of couples than adultery,” says Perel. Back when divorce was a shameful prospect, couples grappling with an affair typically found a way to muddle through. Now, however, men and women are often made to feel ashamed if they try to move past a partner’s infidelity, instead of “kicking the dog to the kerb”. This view is particularly popular in America, Perel adds, where “cheating” tends to be seen in purely moral terms. Critics of Hillary Clinton, for example, have long seen her tolerance of her husband’s infidelities as a blot on her character, rather than as a sign that she prioritises their strengths together over his personal weaknesses. This is a problem, Perel explains, because we have never been more inclined to stray.

Reliable statistics on infidelity are hard to come by as there are few incentives for candour and definitions vary. Numbers of those in Western countries admitting to some sort of infidelity range from 30% to 75% of men and 20% to 68% of women. Now that more women enjoy financial independence and jobs outside the home, the gap between philandering men and women is narrowing swiftly. “There is not a single other taboo that is universally condemned and universally practised,” says Perel. Basically, cheating is something we don’t want and don’t like, but it is something we do and do often.

Nowhere is the prohibition against infidelity in the West more severe – and the consequences more dire – than in America. “People in the States are massively hypocritical,” says Perel. “They don’t cheat any less than the French. They just feel more guilty about it.” Perel argues that this is because Americans not only have more puritanical views of sex and deceit, but also because struggling with self-control is central to the national ethos. “Everything is exaggerated here, everything is world-famous, the portions are gigantic, it’s all about excess and control. In Belgium you don’t sit and eat a meal and talk about all the things you shouldn’t be eating because it’s bad for you. Being bad is a pleasure.”

Perel wants to change the way we think about infidelity. Instead of seeing it as a pathological and immoral impulse that invariably leaves trauma and destruction in its wake, she wants us to understand that extramarital yearnings are all too natural, and that affairs are terribly, perhaps even inevitably, human. “Monogamy may not be a part of human nature but transgression surely is,” she says. “And sometimes even happy people cheat.” If, like Seth, we want to build relationships that will last, then we may need to share his realism about what such a relationship might look like, and what kind of imperfections we are willing to tolerate. “It’s not that monogamy is impossible to pull off, but a lot of people don’t and many more won’t,” he says to me. “The whole point of this is to maintain a relationship that can exist in happiness for decades. Esther’s been instrumental in helping us figure this out.”

“Infidelity was always painful, but today it’s ‘traumatic’,” says Perel. “This notion that ‘my whole life is a lie, I don’t know anymore what to believe’, or that you apply PTSD to infidelity? That’s a completely recent construct.” Raised in the Francophone Jewish community in Antwerp, Perel speaks with the kind of lilting French accent that could make a shipping forecast sound alluring. Between sips of kale juice at the Soho Grand, a chic Manhattan hotel near her apartment, she is explaining to me why time has hardened our view of adultery.

“It’s because fidelity is the last thing left that defines a marriage,” she says. “You don’t need to wait to have sex, you don’t need kids. You don’t even need marriage anymore. The only thing that distinguishes it is that, after years of sexual nomadism, you suddenly say ‘I have finally found the one. You are so extraordinary that I am no longer looking for anything else. For you I promise to be suddenly exclusively monogamous’.” The only hitch, says Perel, is that sexual nomadism doesn’t prepare you for exclusivity. “It’s not as though you got it out of your system. Love and desire aren’t the same thing.”

Perel has a refreshing way of talking about sex. Particularly in America, where schools still tend to advocate abstinence and where talk of sex swiftly veers into either smut or sanctimony, her non-judgmental ease with pleasure and desire is rare. Her delivery is also well-served by the fact that, at 58, she is still arrestingly attractive, with misty blue eyes, flaxen hair, an easy smile and an unapologetic way of carrying herself. Dressed in a stylish outfit of flowing bronze silk, which sets off her late-summer tan, she sits with her legs wide and leans forward, her elbows resting on her thighs, her finger- and toe-nails painted the same blood red. “Esther is one of the sexiest human beings I’ve ever encountered,” says Lisa Thaler, a psychotherapist in New York who asked Perel to be her supervisor after hearing her speak. “The way she thinks, the way she inhabits her body, she’s captivating.” When Perel says things like “Good lovers are made, not born,” her seductive confidence makes her easy to believe. Unlike past sex therapists who have become famous, such as the grandmotherly Dr Ruth Westheimer, Perel seems like someone who not only understands sex, but also is very, very good at it.

Seekers of marital advice also like the fact that Perel is still married to her husband of over three decades, Jack Saul, an American psychotherapist and the director of the International Trauma Studies Programme at New York University, whom she met while they were both graduate students in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “My husband deals with pain; I deal with pleasure. They are intimately acquainted,” she writes in “Mating in Captivity”. Together they have two sons, both in their early 20s. But Perel typically deflects attention from her personal life, and is quick to say that she is not holding herself up as a model. “Longevity doesn’t make a relationship a success,” she tells me. “My family life and my choices happen to work for me, but my choices aren’t what I am selling to anyone else. There are just as many reasons why I could not be together with him as there are that I am.”

Such humility is unusual among peddlers of relationship advice, particularly in a country where such guidance tends towards the moralistic and where only the happily married seem allowed to dole it out. Yet Perel is eager to make it clear that she is not selling dogma, but rather commenting on the romantic conundrums of our age. “What works for one couple may not be what works for another couple,” she says. “I really don’t think it’s one size fits all.”

Most people – including many couples therapists, particularly in America – assume that if you stray outside the marriage, there must be something fundamentally wrong with the union itself. But Perel argues that our motivations for affairs are far more complicated than that. “In an age of consumerism, an age of entitlement, we are never meant to feel satisfied,” she says.

Past generations may have been able to settle for fairly good marriages and so-so sex. “The old guy was happy to have a women lend him her vessel; the whole thing took four minutes, about as long as it takes to boil an egg. A soft-boiled egg.” But we now live in a culture in which we feel we deserve to be happy, we are entitled to it. “Everyone wants desire these days,” she says. “What is desire? It’s to own the wanting. I want. That’s the essence of consumerism.” Awkwardly for marriage, we rarely desire what we already have.

This is not a new perception, as countless women’s magazine stories entitled “365 ways to bring passion back into your marriage” can attest. What’s interesting about Perel’s work is her nuanced view of the erotic. Infidelity, she believes, is rarely about sex, or even about the other person. Rather, it’s about recapturing “a feeling of aliveness with someone, of playfulness and curiosity, of selfishness” – that is, the very feelings that time and the mundane necessities of life tend to erode in marriage. When we are unfaithful, Perel explains, “it isn’t so much that we’re looking for another person, as much as we are looking for another self.”

Desiring people other than our partner is fundamentally, unsettlingly natural. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, argues that adultery even makes evolutionary sense, as affairs allow males to spread their seed, and females to diversify their gene pool and collect a little extra help on the side. But what we once tolerated as an unfortunate fact of life, we now see as traumatic. This, Perel argues, is because we not only expect our carefully chosen soul mates magically to satisfy all of our needs, but also rely on them to anchor us in an otherwise rootless and existentially lonely world.

“Never before has the private domain been the central place where people have to find the answers to all of the important questions of life,” Perel tells me. “People used to have religion, people used to have a community, people used to live with three generations of their family. But today I want my sense of belonging, my sense of identity, my sense of all the big questions of life located in my relationship with my partner and my children.” If our partners have essentially become our bulwarks against the vicissitudes of modern life, then it makes sense that infidelity has become rather more destabilising than it once was.

Yet Americans have a uniquely narrow-minded take on infidelity, says Perel. “Most Europeans see it as an imperfection, and not something worth destroying your marriage over.” But Americans, who tend to see sex as corrupting and approach pleasure with scepticism, often view affairs in more binary terms. “Here there’s a persecutor and a victim, these are the only two options,” Perel says. “The language is criminal. I think that speaks volumes.”

Perel of great price
Esther in her library
Perel’s parents were both the only members of their large Jewish families to survive the Holocaust. Her father, the only survivor of nine siblings, went through 14 Nazi concentration camps and ultimately saved 60 people by creating a black market with a friend in the kitchen of one camp. Her mother made it through nine camps, outlasting every member of her Chasidic family. “If they had done what they had been told they wouldn’t have been alive,” she says. “What’s right isn’t always what people tell you, and the rules are sometimes corrupt and cruel. Those stories came with mother’s milk.”

The story of Perel’s parents is essential for understanding her and her work, she says. Yet she recognised this herself only after she turned her attention to sexuality. Her parents, she explains, emerged from the camps wanting more than just to have survived; they wanted to make the most of every day. “I began to understand eroticism not from the sexual modern definition, but from the mystical definition, as in maintaining aliveness, an antidote to death.”

Couples therapists in America, who number more than 50,000, rarely talk about sex. Most assume that if they fix a couple’s emotional problems, good sex will follow. “Therapists are humans and sex is a topic a lot of humans are uneasy about, so it’s no surprise a lot of therapists are uneasy when it comes to talking about sex,” says Ian Kerner, a New York-based psychotherapist and sex counsellor. Because couples therapists “receive very little training about sexuality and sexual diversity, their social beliefs often end up intruding into their practice without them being aware of it,” adds David Ley, a New Mexico-based psychotherapist who offers sexuality training to mental-health therapists around the country. Sex therapists, on the other hand, mostly deal with the medicalised and pathologised kinks of sexual performance. So couples who wish to talk about their flagging sex life or the appeal of a non-monogamous – or monogamish – relationship often struggle to find a willing therapist. As for infidelity, the lion’s share of America’s therapeutic literature focuses on the needs of the harmed partner and condemns the philanderer.

Perel’s approach is different. Not only does she get her clients talking about sex, ever mindful of the relevance of sexual desire in relationships, but she also sees infidelity as a complicated business that often lacks a clear villain or victim. “Betrayal comes in many forms,” she says. “You can be the person who has steadfastly refused your partner for decades, but then he cheats on you and you’re the victim? The victim of the marriage is not always the victim of the affair.”

Instead of treating an affair like a traumatic wound one partner shamefully inflicts on the other, Perel gets people to talk about why they strayed. “Before I tell a person you have to stop, I want to know: What is it for you? How mesmerised are you? Who are you in your affair?” Rather than punish people for their selfishness, their shortcomings, their lack of self-control, Perel wants to know what made them do it, what they were looking for, and why they felt they needed to stray to find it. “The debate is that once you make it complicated you’re trying to be a moral relativist,” she says. “But working with infidelity is about working with the existential dilemmas that surround commitment and loyalty and fidelity and love.” Sometimes, she adds, if a couple can be guided to ask the right questions and listen for the answers, a crisis of infidelity can help them talk about sex and intimacy in a way that brings them closer together.

This approach has its detractors. “Infidelity is a violation. And when you do something that destroys the well-being of the other person, it’s not neutral, it’s not fair, it’s not love,” says Janis Abrahms Spring, a Connecticut-based psychologist and author of the bestseller “After the Affair”, one of the first books to label infidelity a psychological trauma. “The reason my book has been so successful is because it provided a language that captured the heart of the hurt party and made them feel less crazy and alone. For Esther or any therapist to in any way minimise that pain is to retraumatise the traumatised patient.”

Others criticise Perel for her view that loving couples might struggle with desire. Psychologists who promote the attachment theory of human relationships argue that our most fundamental need is to create secure bonds with others, and it is only when we feel secure that we achieve emotional and erotic satisfaction. “Exclusive, positive-bonded relationships are the opposite of ‘captivity’,” argues Sue Johnson, an Ottawa-based clinical psychologist and couples therapist. “And secure attachment really precludes active deception. To suggest that people in happy marriages seek affairs is all kind of a fabrication. People have affairs because they get lonely, because they can’t connect with their partner. They tend to be into thrill-seeking and not into long-term relationships.”

John Gottman , a well-known American psychologist and researcher on marriage and parenting, sent me an e-mail in which he condemned Perel for having “very little clinical sensitivity, so her intuitions about people are almost always way off the mark”. By way of example, he recalled a video Perel presented at a professional meeting in which she treats a couple after an affair. “She asked the hurt wife to empathise with her husband’s pride at his prowess at sexually satisfying his affair partner. ‘Go ahead,’ she told the wife, ‘validate what a great lover your cheating husband thinks he was toward the other woman.’ We thought this was not only misguided but unethical and abusive. So she’s dead wrong. Basically about everything she says.”

Perel is not alone in proposing that we are guided by often conflicting impulses; the work of psychologists such as Stephen Mitchell and David Schnarch has paved the way for her. Evolutionary anthropologists such as Fisher have also found that humans are quite capable of feeling a deep attachment to one partner, an intense romantic love for someone else and a desire for hot sex with quite a few others. “We don’t have one fundamental human need, we have many,” says Perel. Or as Kingsley Amis once said of his own libido: for 50 years it was like being chained to an idiot.

But Perel’s charisma has raised the profile of this approach. She has become a mentor to many in her profession. When we meet in her Fifth Avenue office, just above Manhattan’s Museum of Sex (remarkably enough), she has just finished addressing nine established therapists who have sought her out for guidance – her second monthly meeting with therapists that day. Afterwards she will hop on Skype to advise a group of psychologists based in Israel, Hebrew being one of the nine languages she speaks fluently.

“Esther is really defusing the ticking time bomb at the heart of so many of our long-term relationships,” says Dan Savage, an American pundit who coined the term “monogamish” and is the author of “Savage Love”, an internationally syndicated relationship and sex-advice column. “We define cheating as a relationship extinction-level event, and then we stand around with our thumbs in our butts wondering why marriages don’t last.” Perel’s aura, adds Savage, helps spread her message. “When I say maybe you shouldn’t have a heart attack and die if there’s one or two infidelities over the course of a 50-year marriage, I’m one of those gay people who can’t keep it in his pants. When she says it, she’s a nice married lady who has dedicated her life and a great deal of her work to marriage counselling and trying to save relationships. I’m in awe of her. I just think she’s a genius, and incredibly insightful.”

Does her approach work? The question is irresistible, but also unanswerable, because “work”, in this context, can mean any number of things. Some couples never get past an affair, says Perel. Infidelity can become “a black hole trapping both parties in an endless round of bitterness, revenge and self-pity”. Others use adultery to expedite the collapse of a failing relationship. But after years of following up with couples she has treated, Perel has found that the ones who continued to thrive were those who used an affair as a catalyst for change. Of course it is natural to react to a betrayal with interrogations, injunctions, and near-forensic searches of phone messages and credit-card statements, she warns, but such things never quite allay anxieties that a partner will cheat again. It is only when couples stop scavenging for the sordid details and instead ask more probing questions about the meaning of an affair that they can figure out whether their relationship is based merely on exclusivity or whether it is grounded in the rarity of their connection.

“Maybe you really work to build a lifelong relationship that strives for monogamy but doesn’t expect it, at least not perfectly,” says Seth. “Talking about these things can be very scary at first, but it’s a process of getting rid of neuroses and insecurities. An irony is that infidelity actually makes your relationship more stable. Your partner is thinking, ‘Oh my god what other relationship am I going to find where someone is this secure that I can wander occasionally and still come back.’ It becomes another reason why you stay together.”

Although Perel became an American citizen in 2013, she remains a perennial outsider – a Jew in Antwerp, a Belgian in Israel, where she went to university, a European in America. This distance, and her way with languages, lends some heft to her observations of universal urges and local idiosyncrasies. Marcelo Bronstein, a friend of Perel’s for over 20 years, recalls going to a Spanish bookstore in a small Chilean beach town some years ago and spotting a sign that read “Sorry, we are out of ‘Mating in Captivity’.” “I thought, what is it about this Belgian woman that she can speak to these people in Chile? It’s as if she sees the patterns of humanity across cultures.”
Perel’s status as a foreigner also seems to give her licence to say things that might be off limits to insiders. She can be amusingly merciless in her take on her fellow Americans, and the naive way we seem to think “there’s a solution to everything.” In France, she explains, “a smart book is a brilliant ramble. The smarter it is, the more unintelligible it is. Here the art is about simplifying things. Six steps, seven steps – God forbid you go above seven! But the dilemma of modern love is a complicated situation, it’s not five steps!”

It will certainly take time before Americans soften their view of infidelity. Seth admits that he rarely talks about his “monogamish” relationship, “because it’s so taboo”. Yet he says that when he has opened up about it, at least among more progressive friends, “it’s almost like we’re heroes, like we’re inspirations to people who are thinking the same thing or are curious about it.” The fact that he and his fiancée have a good relationship and “are not like some hippy, dippy couple out on the fringes” often reassures people, he adds. “People seem glad to know that it can be done.”
This makes sense. In a country with so little tolerance for human frailty, where the pursuit of perfection often yields more shame than satisfaction, Perel’s message offers some solace. Perfection, she says, is impossible in even the best relationships. “A great relationship”, Perel insists, “is an imperfect one.”

Passive-Aggressive

Wikipedia references several sources on PA behavior, I’ve included three that seem to really hit home when I think of MindlessCraft.

In conflict theory, passive-aggressive behavior can resemble a behavior better described as catty, as it consists of deliberate, active, but carefully veiled hostile acts which are distinctively different in character from the non-assertive style of passive resistance (Simon, 2010).

Passive-aggressive disorder may stem from a specific childhood stimulus (e.g., alcohol/drug addicted parents, bullying, abuse) in an environment where it was not safe to express frustration or anger. Families in which the honest expression of feelings is forbidden tend to teach children to repress and deny their feelings and to use other channels to express their frustration. For example, if physical and psychological punishment were to be dealt to children who express anger, they would be inclined to be passive aggressive (Johnson,1999).

Children who sugarcoat hostility may have difficulties being assertive, never developing better coping strategies or skills for self-expression. They can become adults who, beneath a “seductive veneer,” harbor “vindictive intent,” in the words of US congressman/psychologist Timothy F. Murphy, and writer/practicing therapist Loriann Oberlin (2005).

Murphy and Oberlin (2005) also see passive aggression as part of a larger umbrella of hidden anger stemming from ten traits of the angry child or adult. These traits include making one’s own misery, the inability to analyze problems, blaming others, turning bad feelings into angry ones, attacking people, lacking empathy, using anger to gain power, confusing anger with self-esteem, and indulging in negative self-talk. Lastly, the authors point out that those who hide their anger can be nice when they wish to be.

Besides the fact that Mindless is discussing this topic recently, I bring this up for another reason. I think I have known for a long time, deep inside, that part of MindlessCraft’s acting out was meant to get back at me, at women in general, without those in his real life knowing anything about it. PA really explains it well, really clicks in a way nothing else has. It also explains to me why I am stuck in moving ahead. On some level, possibly (maybe even probably) subconsciously, he wanted to cause me this pain, he wanted to break me. Now that it has happened, he wishes he had not done it, had not held onto to so much anger and angst about the opposite sex for so long. But, I paid the price for him having to learn what he should have learned years ago.

And, I’m broken and I don’t know how to pick-up those pieces. And, now I see a man where a scared, angry boy once stood. And, now I see a man, a husband, a father who wants to heal the damage he has caused. And, now I see a woman who is a scared little girl who just wants to hide away in her cocoon. And, now I see a woman who so wants to be strong and lift herself up yet again, be the mom her children need, be the woman she needs, but who is just too tired to make it happen.

References:

Johnson, JG; Cohen, P; Brown, J; Smailes, EM; Bernstein, DP (July 1999), “Childhood maltreatment increases risk for personality disorders during early adulthood”, Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, 56 (7): 600–6, doi:10.1001/archpsyc.56.7.600, PMID 10401504

Murphy, T. and Hoff Oberlin, L., (2005), Overcoming passive aggression: how to stop hidden anger from spoiling your relationships, career and happiness, New York: Marlowe & Company, p. 48, ISBN 1-56924-361-1, retrieved April 27, 2010

Simon, George (2010), In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, Parkhurst

 

 

Intimacy

How the fuck do we find passion and intimacy (not just physical, but emotional) in our marriage? I just cannot stop thinking about how MC used other woman like they were simply means to achieve an end. And, I know I was no different to him. And, even with all the actions and work he does, how can I believe that I am not just some blow-up doll. I don’t feel intimacy when we are intimate.

I want to experience intimacy and passion with him, but just feel dead inside. And, I believe sex is sex to him. He doesn’t really feel a difference within himself in the emotional component of our sexual life from before d-day to now. He says he knows he loves me. He says he knows that sex with me is more physically fulfilling than it was with others and always was. Emotionally, however, he really cannot express or find any differences in the emotions he experiences during sex with me since d-day, versus pre d-day. Isn’t there supposed to be an emotional difference in our intimate life? I do know it is not all him on this issue.

My heart is still too often filled with anger and resentment. I’m trying to find my footing. I still contemplate anti-depressants, but I don’t want to turn into my mom and, frankly, in our current location access doesn’t seem likely. And, here I am not wanting to be my mom and, yet, I often spend half my day in pjs (unpacking boxes from our move, but in pjs). I haven’t really gone to gym or pool in a long while. I am just tired of being knocked down AGAIN and again in my life and the thought of lifting myself up AGAIN to yet AGAIN be knocked down by the next something else unknown in the future (likely not even related to MC) is not really enticing. I’m so tired of being knocked down, so I am having a hard time just standing back up.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Clarification, re-clarification. . .

It seems it is once again time to clarify our guiding principals. We previously had attempted to be gentle with our feelings on the subject, but find part of living authentically is to as clearly as possible say what we think. To that end, we have updated our “About” page and “Our philosophy” page to be more direct on this topic.

I really do not think this is a big surprise to most of our readers, those who have been reading for a long while anyway. But, just to be absolutely clear, here it is. We do not believe, nor ascribe to the idea that all serial cheaters are sex addicts. In fact, we wholeheartedly agree with Peggy Vaughan’s assessment that it is being over diagnosed.

A sex addict is defined as a person who is addicted to the sexual experience and its surrounding behaviors. Some people see affairs as being caused by “sexual addiction.” Even though sexual addiction includes deviant sexual behavior that has nothing to do with affairs, the term has been used to include ANY person whose sex life is destructive and out of control. Certainly there are sexual deviants in this society, but based on the large numbers of people having affairs, this is hardly “deviant” behavior.

While the term “sexual addiction” may be relevant in a few cases (perhaps 7 percent according to Patrick Carnes who coined this phrase), it’s unfortunate that many people are tempted to grasp at this simple explanation as the cause of affairs—whether or not it fits. However, despite the problem of inappropriately labeling someone who has affairs as a “sexaholic,” any genuine effort to understand and deal with this issue may be helpful to some people, especially when it involves getting more perspective of the consequences of their behavior and working to deal with the problems it has caused. Peggy Vaughan

Our site is NOT a supporter or adherent to sex addiction diagnosis and twelve-step facilitation (TSF). We do not believe this is the right model for our situation. From time-to-time, as part of our journey forward, we will discuss why we feel this is not a good fit for every serial cheater, including MC. Though we are certainly willing to look at and consider specific exercises that may come from that field of diagnosis and treatment, we believe that SA and TSF control the conversation to such a degree that other conversations are being stifled. We want our site to be a safe place for those other conversations.

And, in those fewer cases where an addiction diagnosis is appropriate, TSF is one of a multitude of options that exist in the United States for addiction treatment. Being the most vocal does not equate to proven, nor to most successful. In fact, TSF and AA actually rate 37 and 38 respectively, out 48 different examined treatment methods for addiction (in this case to alcohol) according to the comprehensive results-based research (see Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches: Effective Alternatives, 3rd Edition). Or if you do not want to read the entire book, you can see the chart from their book at: http://www.behaviortherapy.com/researchdiv/whatworks.aspx

It is clear that an SA diagnosis provides the much longed for “why.” We can understand the desire to have a ready made answer for “why,” but for us it falls short in fundamental ways. We do not believe that the abdication of responsibility for self-control of past behaviors  is appropriate. Ultimately, it is up to you to realize that you are responsible for your life, for your choices and deciding the kind of person you want to be and choosing to do what it takes to be that kind of person. Additionally, we believe 12-step encourages the “SA” to continue selfish thinking at the expense of the traumatized spouse. We believe that the serial cheater must focus on empathy development, gratitude, and providing safety to the betrayed spouse (regardless of the decision to reconcile or divorce). This must be central to the healing process, not put on the back burner. If TSF is the treatment of choice, fine. But, it must NOT be mutually exclusive to empathy and safety for the betrayed. We get that self-care is an important aspect of the needed work for both cheater and betrayed. Still, it cannot and should not be at the expense of the traumatized spouse. Doing so only continues the victim mentality and selfish thinking of the “SA,” which in our view are, more often than not, the core problems needing to be addressed in the first place.

You can’t run away from yourself or, apparently, from SunChips!

Well, we made the move. Though I know the old axiom, “you can’t run away from yourself,” to be true, I think there is always a little secret part of me that hopes the next change of scenery will magically take away all of my fears, all of my pain and make everything magically new and better. Oh, I know all too well that could never be, would never be true. But, how do you turn off all of those secret little irrational thoughts  (good or bad)?

As far as the SunChips, I am a HUGE fan of salsa flavored SunChips. I can never stop with one serving and the kids love them too. I guess I thought that would be one temptation no longer staring me in the face every time I went grocery shopping. Only, guess what they sell in our far off corner of the world? If you guessed SunChips, you guessed right. Who woulda thunk it?

So, how’s life here? Well, many things are good. It is an easy life for expats with good schools for the kids. I am already making friends and do feel connections developing here, as they often do overseas, much easier than random town USA. But, some fears don’t just stop, do they? MC must travel for this job more than the last. I wanted us overseas again so badly. So, here we are.

In reality, I can see and feel that I am not as panicky as I once was on the travel issue. MC is at a big beautiful hotel with his work colleagues (all men). He did call me the other night to tell me that his hotel is a block from the red light district and his group did walk past on his way to and from dinner, including his big boss.He assures me these are top quality guys. But, really, how can you ever truly know. He shared that he realized this was exactly the kind of situation he would have taken advantage of in the past, once the group had split up for the night. He assures me he did not, that before d-day, he wanted to take advantage of such situations, but, he says, that is no longer the case. I do believe him, but there will always be that seed of doubt. I know he was scared to share this with me, and am proud he did. Today, his group, went for a hike. This was on their itinerary from the start. More than anything, however, I think this hike has me more triggered than anything else. But, even that hasn’t really stopped me in my tracks or broken me down or sent me down the rabbit hole. So, there’s that I guess.

 

A good read

I read this and found it really spoke to me. I think a serial cheater is a different breed, often characterized by three distinct features. First, is a lack of compassion, for others and frankly for themselves too. Now, work with me for a minute here. In MC’s case, and I suspect many others out there, he chose self-pity over self-compassion. You can read what defines that difference here. And, this leads to the second problem; a life  ruled by self-pity. Self-pity is the poison at the heart of so many ills, most notably “I deserve” thinking that is the corner stone of rationalizing the irrational. Third, is lack of integrity. And, I don’t just mean this in terms of actions and words not matching, though that is one important component. I also mean this in terms of a person who has disintegrated themselves into separate selves. In MC’s case this was the organized, intelligent, disciplined, cautious MC he presented to the world and the impulsive, risk-taking, pleasure seeking self he only allowed to exist in his own secret world. Living in one extreme or the other, not believing or allowing that one integrated self, living with moderation, instead of extremes, could or should exist. Here’s the thing, no matter the diagnosis or path forward, I believe that the serial cheater must overcome these very big character defects, which involves extinguishing these poor character traits and belief systems and learning and living integrity, empathy and compassion. They must want to do this, they must choose to do this. We cannot force them to and we cannot make it happen for them. But, if they do not want to do it, then they are not a person who can ever be safe as a partner. It took MC crashing and burning to the ground, for him to realize that his way of thinking, his way of doing, his way of being was a complete failure and to want to do something about it not just to save us, but to save himself.  I think this article is a good reminder of what the journey should entail.

“How to Recognize True (and false) Contrition” — by Dr. George Simon, Jr.

A person’s character deficiencies inevitably spawn a host of irresponsible behavior patterns – bad habits that can become easily ingrained and, once rooted, extremely hard to break. Often, these dysfunctional patterns involve forms of mental, emotional, and even physical abuse within relationships. And while many of the character-impaired individuals I’ve worked with experienced periods of profound unhappiness and even a degree of regret over their actions, only a handful made truly significant changes in their once destructive behaviors. But those who truly did address their behaviors and succeeded in changing their lives for the better displayed a rare quality that seemed to make all the difference: genuine contrition.

By definition, personality patterns are deeply ingrained and hard to modify. But that doesn’t mean a person can’t change. People can and do change every day. That is, genuinely contrite people do. This begs the question about what contrition really is and how to know when someone is really experiencing it.

The word contrition comes from the Latin contritus (the same root for the word contrite), and literally means “crushed to pieces.” The contrite person has had their once haughty and prideful ego completely crushed under the tremendous weight of guilt and shame. Such a person has “hit bottom”, not only because they can no longer bear the thought of how badly their actions hurt others but also because of their deep realization of how their usual way of doing things has resulted in abject personal failure. That’s why the contrite person is first and foremost a broken person. And, by definition, only by acknowledging personal defeat can a person become potentially open to reconstructing their life on very different terms. It’s been said many times, but it’s profoundly psychologically true. One cannot begin a new life without laying to rest one’s old self.

A regretful person is not necessarily a contrite one. Regret often precedes contrition but is definitely not synonymous with it. And when it comes to making meaningful changes in one’s character and turning around an irresponsible life, regret is simply not sufficient. The word regret comes from the Old French, meaning “to bewail.” It’s a person’s intellectual and emotional response to an unpleasant or unfortunate circumstance (originally used to characterize a person’s loss of a loved one through death). Anyone can regret something they have done and for a variety of reasons, some of which can be quite ignoble. Even some of the most hardened criminals had certain regrets. They regretted the loss of their freedom. They lamented the fact that a judge was able to exercise power over them and subject them to various unpleasant consequences. Many “bewailed” that the sentence they received was greater than they anticipated or longer than someone else’s who committed a similar crime. A few even regretted their actual actions, but most of the time even that kind of regret had to do with practical considerations (e.g., they didn’t plan their crime carefully enough to avoid detection, or they misjudged the character of their partner in crime who later “ratted [them] out” to authorities). And when expressing their regrets, some were even moved to tears. But tears do not a contrite person make. And mere regret has never been sufficient to prompt a person to change their ways.

Remorse is a prerequisite for contrition, but it’s also not sufficient for it. Remorse is a genuine empathy-based expression of one’s regret over hurting someone else. By definition, psychopaths (alt: sociopaths) cannot really experience any meaningful degree of it, although they are quite capable of feigning it. Fortunately, most people are capable of it to some degree, and having remorse for the injury caused to another is a necessary first step toward real contrition. But true contrition goes even beyond remorse. Genuinely contrite people – their prideful egos crushed and torn asunder by the weight of their guilt and shame – not only hate their “sins” and the pain they inflicted on others as a result of their sins, but also are deeply unnerved about the person they allowed themselves to become that permitted their travesties in the first place. And they necessarily resolve not only to make amends but also to make of better persons of themselves and their lives in a better fashion in the future.

Contrition is that very rare but absolutely essential feature of changing one’s life for the better. It requires a true metanoia or “change of heart.” And even more importantly, it requires work – a lot of very hard, humble, committed work. Reforming one’s character is the most challenging of human enterprises. You have to put a lot of energy into doing it, and you have to feel a deep sense of obligation about doing it in order to maintain the energy to get the job done. And contrition wears a very distinctive face. Truly contrite people behave very differently, even from regretful and remorseful people. And when you know what to look for, you can readily tell the difference.

One of the more reliable outward signs that someone has really experienced a change of heart is their willingness and commitment to make amends. The contrite person is not only “sorry” for what he/she has done but is willing to repair the damage inflicted on the lives of others. Many irresponsible characters will challenge their understandably hesitant to trust again victims with retorts like: “I’ve said I’m sorry a million times now – what else do you want from me?!,” attempting all the while to throw the other party on the defensive for doubting their sincerity. Or they will cite some small efforts they have made over a relatively short period of time and then chide their victims for not immediately accepting those small gestures as concrete evidence of meaningful, sincere, permanent change. Contrite individuals understand that the burden of proof rests with them and that they owe those they have hurt a justifiable basis upon which to resume some degree of trust. A contrite person is willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to regain good standing within a relationship.

It’s one thing to say you’re sorry. But it’s quite another to prove it by how hard you work to change. Behavior is the best indicator that a person is truly contrite and working to really change. Living and dealing with persons of deficient character is always difficult, but many people increase the level of pain they experience in their relationships with problem characters by buying into the notion that if a person says they’re sorry, sheds a tear, or looks unhappy, and appears to mean well, things will necessarily be different. They give too much regard to a person’s regret and sorrow and don’t look hard enough for evidence of true contrition.

A person’s genuine willingness and commitment to make amends is always accompanied by plan of action to accomplish precisely those ends. In short, a person’s actions always speak louder than their words or even their emotional expressions. And I’m not talking about demonstrative gestures that make good impressions on others like going back to church or getting religion once again. The contrite person conducts themselves in a fundamentally different manner than they historically have. They might not do so perfectly or every time. But they evidence a constant effort toward reforming their conduct, and when they fall short they readily admit it and do their best to get back on course.

All too many times therapists as well as the victims of irresponsible characters make the assumption that things are moving in the right direction because the bad actor shed a tear or two about something horrible they did or said they were sorry. But even when sorrow is genuine, it’s certainly not enough to make a difference. Sorrow is an emotional response usually connected to the loss of something. And while it is always painful to lose – especially when losing something of great value – that kind of pain is not in and of itself a reliable predictor of change. Individuals who have been in abusive relationships and who give a lot of weight or credence to expressions of regret and sorrow are most often doomed to an escalating level of personal pain and hardship. And in proper cognitive-behavioral therapy for abusers, where the principal focus is on behavior and fostering fundamental attitudinal and behavioral change, the therapist has to be much less interested in what a person has to say and much more concerned about what he/she is doing to truly correct problematic thinking and behavior patterns and repairing damage they have done. Talk, as they say, is infinitely cheap. And therapy that just focuses on getting someone to express their feelings or communicate their regrets is likely doomed to be ineffective in fostering meaningful change.

Having some regret simply isn’t enough to make a person mend their ways. It takes a lot of concerted effort to overcome our shortcomings. The truly contrite individual works to make amends, to do better, and above all, to be better. That always involves demonstrable, consistent behavior – behavior that can be observed, monitored, encouraged, rewarded, and measured by both the therapist and other parties to a relationship with the troubled character.

I’m learning to be me again

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We have a gated driveway. A while ago it stopped working. The landlord sent out a repair person to fix it. The person told us a new motor would be necessary. He then left and told us he would return with the new part when it was available.

Thinking about our overseas life, about how all the 110/220 transformers we ever used had fuses (so the fuse blows and not the transformer), I wondered if the same might be true for the gate. So, I opened up the circuit box  to take a look. Sure enough, there was an extra fuse in the box. I replaced the old fuse with the extra, and it all worked again.

The repair person had taken apart the gate arm in trying to discover what was wrong. After the fuse was fixed, the gate was opening too wide. It was then I realized the repair person had put the arm back in the wrong position, so I fixed it. It is all working now.

Why is this story so important to me? Because in the past I would have been afraid of offending MC’s ego, his male-pride. I was so afraid of his hurt pride, that I would not have even thought about fixing it myself, let alone actually fixing it.

I am proud of me, for not letting that old fear get in the way. I’m proud of MC for taking pride in this accomplishment of mine, small though it may be. I am happy to see that he no longer defines his masculinity by such things. And, I am happy to see that I can learn to be me again.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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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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.

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!

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.

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.

The Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Image found here.

Failure of the decision-making process

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

Ugh!

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

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

Many the Miles

School is done. On the road today. 

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

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

I just LOVE this song. . .

Many the Miles

Purpose and beauty

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

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

Life is Amazing

Finding me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Psalm of Life

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

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

First things first, I’m a realist

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

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

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

Reconcile4Life meaning:

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

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

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

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

Good enough to stay or bad enough to leave?

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

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

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

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

The Road to Sing Sing

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

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

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

Bleeding out

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

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

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

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

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

No Try: Just Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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Recovery Group for SOBs and their spouses

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

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

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