Category Archives: Our Story

Jesus pushers

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I am so sick and tired of Jesus pushers. Jesus is not the only way. I am not doomed to failure and hell if I don’t accept Jesus. I am not dooming my children to failure and hell for teaching them that Jesus was just a man, perhaps a Rabbi, and nothing more.

And, the more you press it with me, the more I despise being around you. So, why do you bother? What is the fucking point of trying to convert someone who clearly has no interest in converting?

And, as I recently said, this whole “Jesus is the only way” crap reminds me so much of why I am so damn uncomfortable with SA and 12-step. Because far too many within that community insist it is the best way, it is the only way, and anyone who seeks something different is in denial and doomed to fail. It just reminds me too much of replacement theologists who try to convert us to Christianity. Except instead of SA and 12-step, it is Jesus – Jesus is the best way, the only way and you are in denial and doomed to hell if you don’t convert. It is just too similar of a message and I find it fucking creepy and its own form of arrogance.

Love a rock, worship a rock, believe in a rock for all I care, just stop throwing your damn rock at others.

Ok, sorry, just needed to get that off my chest!



Chicken or egg?

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I’ve started and stopped many times on writing a new blog post. I think I have something to say, only to find I really don’t, or at least not anything that is relevant or interesting. So, perhaps that is not a bad thing. I don’t know. So, sorry, it seems I only write when processing something I am unable to process on my own.

We recently went on vacation. It was nice. We were in a new city, with big beautiful everything, lots of new experiences for us as a family. During this all, we had an incident where youngest son was lost for a brief time. We were on our way to one of these experiences, our tickets reserved ahead for a set time. It was located in a large crowded place. The boys needed to use the bathroom. So, I waited at the entrance of our next experience, while MC took the boys to search for a bathroom. Our youngest finished before MC and our oldest son. MC told him to walk back to me by himself. The bathroom was not in visual distance of me. Our son got lost. When MC and our oldest returned to me our youngest was not present. I was scared to death. Our 10 year old son was lost in a crowded place, in a city where he knew nothing and nobody. We found him. All was ok. He asked people for help and they gave it to him. But, I couldn’t help but feel like there is a lack of judgement within MC. He has this instinct to put time and schedules above all else, even the safety of our children. And, in the end, it took MORE time searching for our lost son than if he had remained in MC’s presence the entire time, instead of being sent ahead.

Here’s the thing, I have a habit of asking myself, “What is the worst that could happen?” This little question has encouraged me to not worry so much about some things and to determine it is not worth the risk about other things. Clearly, before d-day, MC never asked himself this question. And, sadly, even after d-day, he still struggles to ask himself this question. Is he capable of knowing what is safe and what is unsafe?

For MC’s whole life, even today, his mom constantly asks “is it safe?” about everything, even minuscule things that are clearly safe, but also those things that are not clearly safe. Is he unable to ask this question of himself because of her constant badgering about “is it safe?” OR does she constantly badger about this because she knows he has no concept of what is safe and what is not. I really don’t know anymore.

Where are we? I don’t know.

Where are we? I don’t know.

He admits he has a problem with lying when he feels panic.

While he promises me honesty, he cannot promise me that he will not instinctively lie when in a panic. I respond, then how in the world is it you are promising me honesty?

He says he promises to learn to identify his panic mode, and to own up to any lie immediately when he realizes what he’s done. He promises to work on eliminating this instinct. But, in wanting to be honest with me, he cannot promise it will never happen again as he learns to extinguish this behavior.

He promises to never keep things from me. But, cannot promise he will not “forget” ever again. He promises to take some very specific steps to make it unlikely he will forget. But, again, he cannot promise he will not “forget” ever again.

When he discusses his steps to remembering me, I cannot help but feel that he has to include me on his “to-do” list to not forget me. And, that leaves me feeling like he does not love and respect me enough to think about me, unless forced to do so or reminded by some “to do” list to do so.

So, where are we? I don’t know.


“Me too”

Many friends are posting “me too” on their timelines. I hesitate. Recent conversations regarding my FOO, made me really look at “It was not my fault.”

I was thinking of an incident in college. For years, I did think it was my fault. But, with recent conversations regarding my FOO, and all the “me too” postings, I started to realize how I had completely let this boy off-the-hook, telling myself it was my fault.

There was a boy, he was the best friend of my friend’s boyfriend. We had driven across our home state several times together. We argued from time-to-time, in a flirty, playful kind of way. He once challenged me to solve a quadratic equation, after a debate about girls and math abilities. I easily solved it. He was humbled and admitted it. One night, we were out drinking with friends. He came back with me to my downtown studio apartment, into my bed, we made out. Clothes did not come off. We slept. I woke-up with my shirt pulled up and him on top of me. . .

I told the story to MC many years ago. I was clear that it was not consensual. It was clear he didn’t want to hear about it. I never brought it up again. Until last night. MC is safe now, right? I brought the story up because I wanted to share a revelation that occurred to me just that day. I was simply trying to share with him that I had realized that, “it was not my fault.” I did not consent. It was not ok.

MC started questioning me about the incident, wanting me to rehash it moment-by-moment. Telling me, I should not have put myself in that position. He then told me he had always viewed that incident as consensual. His pre d-day self was angry at me, not at the boy.

Last night, I simply wanted to share the revelation with him. He kept questioning. He would give platitudes, followed by “but, . . . “. He would backtrack, give more platitudes, then turn to me and say, “I know this will likely make it worse, but you should’ve. . .”. You know what, I simply wanted to share a revelation, not rehash and defend myself over the incident to my husband.

I asked him if he ever climbed on top of an AP or prostitute in the middle of the night, while they were asleep, to fuck their breasts? He replied, “no, I would never do that.” I asked him more about why he would never do that, if it is ok for anyone to do that. He replied it was not ok.  I, then, asked him to apply those same standards to me, his wife.  I pointed out, it appears he is showing more compassion to a prostitute who was paid to be used, then his own wife. Why is that?

He apologized, but is that only because I was so upset with his previous responses? He is trying to tell me that he is still working to conquer his misogynistic views of the world, that this pointed out to him how much more he has to overcome. But, if a paid prostitute should expect to not be treated like that, then why shouldn’t I? I’m scared. I thought he was safe. It wasn’t meant to be a test, but it kind of turned out to be. . .

Then, I find myself wondering, “if my learning to deal with my issues is a long-term process, should I not give MC the same grace?” Then I wonder, “are these thoughts of giving him some grace simply my old pattern of putting on rose-colored glasses, when I need to allow myself to see reality in front of me?” Why does he only apply his sick misogynistic views to me?

Overseas connections

You know, MC and I were talking about the unique situation living overseas, moving every few years to a new country, brings to this shit storm. We are far from friends, families, and roots. In some locals, we have great access to mental health care. In other locals, very little exist. And, the type of care available is different depending upon the country. And, we move a lot, never really developing deep roots. We make great friends, for a short time, then move on. We may also feel compelled to not risk those friendships by revealing TMI about our marriage, either in fear of friends not wanting to get involved with drama, or fear of becoming the focus of gossip in our small expat community. Also, the opportunities and availability of “things” is often much more “in your face,” whether it be prostitution or locals who want to snag themselves an American (insert any developed nation) man; some (meaning me) might even refer to them as unpaid prostitutes.

This is not to say I don’t love many things about the expatriate experience. I really do love it on many levels. It is to say that it adds a unique twist to an already gut-wrenching situation. And, I think, perhaps we need to find a way to reach other people like us (expats dealing with infidelity) to support one another. I know having discussions with others, in general, has been helpful. But, the identifying with others (like LAA, E and SBE) adds a level of understanding that is so helpful!


Sharing again.

Source: 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!

Dogmatically Anti-Dogmatic

I try so hard to keep elements of our non-recovery life out of the blog. Something happened at the beginning of the year and I told myself it was unrelated, but I’m beginning to see just how related it may be.

When we arrived to our new home a year ago, we met a family that took us under their wing. They showed us where all the best groceries stores were located, took us to a couple of the local expat clubs, invited us over for drinks, really made us feel welcome. I thought, wow, we are really finding some nice friends here.

A few comments here and there sparked my attention. The first occurred a few months down the line when it was casually mentioned that they founded and ran a youth ministry when they lived back in the US and missed it very much. She would talk about it from time-to-time and it always sounded like just some positive youth group experience to which she and her husband were devoted.

One night we joined them for drinks. They asked what Judaism means to our family. I have no problem with that at all. Clearly, they had very little exposure to Jewish people and were curious. We explained how it is an important part of our identity, how we try to do a little more each year to honor our Jewish heritage and identity (keep mitzvah), but that we don’t see G-d as some corporeal being in the sky granting special wishes. Somewhere in the conversation they explained to us that Jesus is their Lord and Savior and path to redemption. There was also a comment in there about the earth being less than 10,000 years old and, yes, I was in a bit of shock over that statement. But, I didn’t see any of that as a deal-breaker. I’ve always been the type of person who does not need you to believe everything I believe, as long as you are willing to do the same for me.

Then, I got an e-mail from her, saying she was studying scripture from Romans, and she would love to hear my thoughts on what she was reading. This was someone I considered a friend. So, you know what, I read it and made a very considered, studied, respectful, while staying authentic to my own beliefs, response. I spent hours on it. She responded with, “I really love your response and cherish our friendship! Looking forward to spending more time together with our families throughout the next year!!” Ok, phew, got through that sticky situation. We can just go back to focusing on our similarities. But, then she sent another reading from her study of Romans. WTF? It went over the exact same ideas, with repeating the same “evidence” as the previous thing sent. I’m all for two-way academic discussions, but this felt very different. There was no conversation. She just sent “readings” from her studies. It seemed like she just wanted me to read Romans, not really exchange thoughts, ideas and understandings. I did not respond. I just ignored it.

Things went downhill from there. Her kids, who had been so friendly to ours, started asking them why they don’t believe in Jesus? My oldest would answer and they would ask again, as if they had not heard a word he said. During this time, the family started another “youth ministry” here. I looked into who they were and what they believed. It really confirmed my fears, they were using friendship as a way to build trust with our family, so then they could walk us down “Romans Road.”

While I am proud of myself for seeing “red flags” sooner than I would have in the past. For understanding I needed to disengage sooner than I would have in the past, I was still upset.

And, it reminds me of the black and white thinking, the dogmatic thinking we have encountered on our recovery journey. And, if anything, I feel more dogmatically anti-dogmatic than I ever have before. In my view, there is NO book that is inerrant. Life is evolving, literally and figuratively. There is more than one right path.

It is ok if you don’t agree. I do not need you to believe everything I believe, as long as you are willing to do the same for me. I, however, must also admit to myself that if both cannot work from that premise, then it will result in an emotionally unsafe relationship. I’m learning. I just wish I didn’t have to keep learning the hard way. Because it really hurt.

Today’s e-mail conversation


I love fried chicken. I love skiing. I love my cast iron skillet.

Those are all incorrect uses of the verb.

I like fried chicken more than I like other foods. I like skiing more than I like other activities. I like my cast iron skillet more than I like other cookware. I liked you more than I liked other people. I liked my children. I liked self-indulgence and flattery.

I do not love fried chicken. I do not love skiing. I do not love my cast iron skillet. I did not love you. I did not love Son1. I did not love Son2.

Then I learned what love is, and devoted significant time and energy to practicing it. I’m still working on it.

I love you. I love Son1. I love Son2. I love Dog.

I do need to control my frustrations. This has been a difficult topic for me to understand and to articulate.

Thank you for your patience.

TL: I’m not sure you even liked me. I certainly didn’t rate as one of your three favorite things.

MC: I liked you.  I am sorry I let that get lost in a mountain of jealousy, resentment, anger, and self-pity.

TL: You didn’t treat me like someone you liked.

MC: I know.  I was like a kid who does not take care of his toys, and then cries when they are broken or lost.

TL: Changing the word “love” to “like” doesn’t make it any more true.

MC: I disagree.  It’s what I’ve been trying to say all these years.

TL: Treating a human like a toy does not equate to loving or liking a human, only to liking an object. There is no relationship with an object. It is all one sided. I’m not an object.

MC: I know.  That’s one of the many problems I had.

TL: If you know, how can you claim to have even liked me (a person with my own thoughts and feelings). You only liked an image of me as an object, you never liked me.

MC: I guess that’s what I’m saying.  It was wrong of me.  I am sorry.  I am working to correct it.

TL: You didn’t like me. You didn’t love me. You only had occasional like or love for an object-like image of me that was actually never really me. And, then you spent years being angry at me for being me, not your object-like image. You liked fried chicken, you really did. You liked skiing, you really did. Not an image, but the reality of those things. You cannot say the same of me. In fact, you hated the real me.

MC: That’s basically true.   I am sorry.

What is going on in the LilyCraft home?

You’ve all seen the discussion of the last few days. I am so grateful for the input of betrayed friends who have so helped to both pinpoint the source of my doubts, as well help me recognize the strength and rarity of all the work thus far.

When we started on this recovery journey, we began to learn the meaning of “love.” We learned that love is wanting the best for the other. We, also, learned that love never means allowing yourself to be in an unsafe situation with an unsafe partner. What was and has continued to be confusing for me is how MC, after learning this definition, could ever say he loved me prior to D-day.

He has discussed separately how he saw me as a possession to be controlled. And, how he was angry and disappointed that, as his prized possession, I was not all he wanted; I was not the virgin wife he thought he deserved. Whenever I write that, I feel so shocked that a modern man can have such hypocritical, misogynistic ideas. I am proud of him for admitting these truths, for facing this ugly reality over the course of the last five years. But, I am still dismayed by it!

Possessing and controlling are NOT love. Infatuation is also NOT love. Treating me like a prized toy on a shelf, to be played with at his convenience and to be put away and forgotten about otherwise is NOT love. Being angry with me for not being in bubble wrapped condition upon marrying me is also NOT love. And, I know he knows that.

He now admits that at the time of the affairs, he did think he loved AP 1 and AP 3 on some level at some points. He can (and does) easily say and mean he didn’t truly LOVE the others, given the definition of “love” he now knows. But, then, how in the world is the same not true for me. I personally think he was confusing not wanting me to stop loving him, for him loving me. And, that too is NOT love.

The one truth he has had trouble seeing was that there is NO definition of love, on any level, that describes his feelings for me prior to d-day. On some level, I knew this all along, but perhaps I too didn’t want face the ultimate ugly of uglies. But, I felt it, couldn’t quite put a name to it, and it has been eating away at me. I cannot help but wonder what other truths is he hiding from himself? It feels so overwhelmingly important, like a block I could see, but couldn’t name and couldn’t remove. This is a brick in the wall between us. Perhaps the last brick, perhaps the biggest brick, I don’t know, but if feels very very important. Is he willing to truly remove this brick and expose the ugly to himself? This feels like a make or break point for us.

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 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.

I’m a bad parent too, corrected

Last night at dinner I got carried away with a line of questioning to my son. I consider him a picky eater. He is thirteen, and has chosen to be vegetarian. He prefers starches and sugars, so I worry about his health. I also sometimes feel that he is overly critical of food prepared by TL or me. I started asking every family member to name several of their favorite dishes. It went well at first. Then, after a few rounds, I stopped thinking and said something critical like, “See, son, it seems like you don’t like any dishes.”

It wasn’t true. But, I had told myself it was true because he was naming only dishes that I considered too starchy and not well-balanced. Repeat, it wasn’t true. He didn’t just name unhealthy dishes. Rather, I perceived his words incorrectly, due to my bias against him and my failure as a listener.

Despite my promises to myself to not criticize my son the way my mother criticized me, I found those stupid, hurtful words rolling off my tongue. And, worse still, I said that my line of questioning was all aimed at proving that he would not name healthy foods. That’s another sickly negative thing for me to have said.

Why do I do stupid stuff like that? I’m trying not to be a pessimist and a critic the way I was before D-day. I think I need help.

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.


Ego, fear, anger and jealousy 

Lesson 33 of Recovery Nation is about emotions. It poses three tasks.

1. While you have no doubt already deepened the awareness of your emotions…you now want to begin the process of mastering them. You want to make it a goal of yours to turn what was once a debilitating fault into one of your greatest strengths. That can’t be done by reading. It must be developed in your day-to-day life. And so, that is your assignment. To take this next week to seek out opportunities to deepen an awareness of your emotions — both as they occur and as they can be anticipated. Each day, find at least five opportunities to assess your emotions. Don’t do this retroactively…as in, you are about to go to bed and so, you review the day’s activities and how you felt about them…this must be done in the here and now.

Additionally, add a few opportunities for developing this awareness by anticipating, role playing common rituals surrounding your past behavior. Or possible future behavior. Consider your emotions at the height of a compulsive urge. On the death of a loved one. On the experience of a child’s birth. Think of the extremes.

The insights you are searching for throughout this exercise will be in relation to the finite qualities of emotion; the lack of fear/anxiety that comes with developing confidence in being able to anticipate emotional intensity; and the confidence that comes with the same.

2. Each day over the next three, share a few insights relating to these topics in your personal thread. Insights that you have gained from that particular day’s focus.

What is the emotion I have when I suspect a woman might be interested in me? Actually, there are perhaps two versions of this. One is when the woman, for no apparent reason, gives me attention. In this case, these days, I feel fear. I fear I will be in trouble with my wife if I don’t make every conscious effort to drive the woman away. What about ten or twenty years ago? What would I have felt in that situation? I think it was a different fear. I feared I would do something stupid that would drive the woman away. And, in fact, the times I recall that scenario really happening, I let the fear immobilize me.  

The second version is when the woman does not show interest in me, but rather I wonder whether she could potentially be interested in me based on the way she looks at me or talks to me. The emotion, I think, is confidence, from a little self-esteem boost caused by the possibility of her interest. When I walk away and nothing further happens, the feeling of confidence is replaced by nagging self-doubt, as I question whether I had been simply deluding myself. In the bad old days, I might have tried to flirt with that woman to try to stroke my ego again. These days, I walk away, count my blessings and remind myself what is important in life.

What is my emotional reaction when my wife expresses her fear, worry, anger, and self-doubt I caused through my infidelity? In the best case scenario, I feel compassion, and I express it by trying to be supportive. If my efforts are met with resistance, I think I feel frustration, as I am confounded by my inability to help the situation and my worry that it might get worse before it gets better.

I experienced intense fear when thinking about forced retirement and career change. Lately, we have developed an improved plan that gives me some hope. But, once in a while, in the worst moments, I feel panicked, worrying about how it might be difficult to find a new job.

It is not uncommon for me to feel stressed, or even panicked, when I start to think of a growing list of things to do at work or at home. The solution, it seems, is to remember the image of how to fit rocks, pebbles, and sand in a jar.

Sometimes someone cuts me off in traffic; knowingly or otherwise creates a bureaucratic labyrinth or obstacle; or generally treats me with disrespect, self-importance, or impatience. This makes me feel angry. In the first two examples, it helps to remember that it is not personal, no more so than when a stampeding cow tramples a flower. That is the same approach that helps in the third example, but it is challenging.

What about feeling jealous? I can’t believe I have never before researched this topic specifically. It is the main emotion I recall when I try to pinpoint the beginning of my adultery and unloving behavior. Before I continue, let me do a little reading on this. First, I found “Are you jealous of your partner’s past” in the March 12, 2012 publication of Psychologies. It says:

“‘What appears to be curiosity is an attempt to gain reassurance, says psychoanalyst Sophie Cadalen. ‘We want to know everything so that we can compare the place we have in our partner’s life with that of their ex.’ Love is unsettling and we’re always looking for benchmarks against which to measure our relationships. Even though we know it has the potential to torment us, we drag up the past by asking questions. We think, ‘If I knew how they lived before – the things my partner liked, I’ll be able to work out whether they like their life now’. Wanting to pick over your lover’s life in forensic detail can also be an indication of something else, says Abse. ‘I would suggest that this is really about you and your own fantasies about somebody else having a better time than you. Jealousy can often come from feelings of inadequacy.’ At the root of this is probably a childhood experience of not feeling special, she says.”

Then I read “Jealousy FAQ: How to get over your partner’s past,” by Jennifer on December 30, 2012. The author is far more religious than I, and far more grounded in reality than I was at the height of my jealousy. I mean that I was self-righteous and overlooked my own past, whereas this author was indeed a virgin. Nonetheless, it was comforting to read that jealousy is not so uncommon and that one can overcome it by focusing on the things that are truly important in life and the irreplaceable good traits about your mate. It was also comforting to see that often people with jealousy of their mate are, like me, coming from a markedly conservative religious, cultural, or family background. I went on to read a couple more pieces by this same author.

Then I found a book and website called Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy. It sounds promising, including this line: “I’ve received countless letters from RJ sufferers with… shall we say, very “colourful” pasts. Much more “colourful” than that of their partners… and these people still suffered from debilitating retroactive jealousy.”  

As you can see from my most recent post, over the past week or so I did quite a bit of thinking about jealousy.

3. At the end of the week, assess the level of effort you put into this task. Did you remember to consciously seek out such developmental opportunities each of the seven days? Post your assessment in your thread.

Maybe I got a bit side-tracked with my exploration of jealousy. Nonetheless, I think one benefit I got from this exercise is that it lead me to study that emotion that had troubled me for so long.

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. . .”

Lovemaking versus sex

Since the very first time we had sex together, TL has been telling me to “make love” to her rather than “just have sex” with her. I want to do this, but I really do suspect I have no clue what I’m doing. Last night we tried it, with her telling me to go slower, touch gently and more, use more eye contact, and talk about love. I tried it. I think it helped. I also think I need a lot more work on it.

Have any of you readers dealt with this topic?  It’s one that still sort of confuses me.

How to restore your dignity and give you the experiences I denied you?

Dear betrayed spouses, can you help me out here? Can you help me see the way forward through your eyes? Perhaps there are no good answers to my questions. Perhaps there are several competing, or complementary, good answers.

Your husband (or wife) humiliated you, ignored your feelings, and disregarded your love, beauty, intelligence, caring, loyalty, and hard work. They were so caught up in a shameful life of adultery and betrayal that they did a piss-poor job of hiding their behavior from neighbors, community members, co-workers, and people who know you. Now you cringe whenever you wonder how much those people know.  

What do they know that you don’t know? When did they know it? Why did they not tell you? Do they think less of you now for not divorcing your cheating spouse? Do they think less of you for not discovering the truth sooner?  

And, what of your disloyal spouse’s affair partners? Do they think they are better than you or that they shared more with your mate than you do? Do they continue to think that?  

Did your cheating spouse have a friend who knew the full story and then helped deceive you? Why don’t you get an apology, or any acknowledgement, from that person too?

With all these doubts that your spouse created in you — nagging doubts, like an itch you can never scratch, or like someone spitting on you in public while the whole world just ignores the situation — can your spouse do anything to help you?  

Is there anything he or she could do to alleviate some of your pain or restore some of your dignity? I’ve tried a few things, with limited success. But, before I say more, I’d like to hear your perspectives.

In addition to the loss of your dignity, your spouse also unjustly gave things to an affair partner that should have been saved for you. Maybe your husband took the other woman to some romantic retreat in a way he never had for you. You had always told yourself that just wasn’t his style. But, then you learned it could be his style, but he had just never bothered to do it for you. Maybe your cheating wife gave the other man oral sex, after years of telling you that she just wasn’t into that sort of thing. And these examples are just two of many, just the tip of the iceberg.

Is there anything your cheating spouse can do to rectify such injustice? How can he turn back the clock and give irreplaceable moments to you now that those moments have passed? How can he un-break your heart? I think I know the answer, but I hope I’m wrong.

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, 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.

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


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.”

“Rock bottom” is not the bottom, it is the tipping point

Chapter 27 of Recovery Nation continues talking about compulsive rituals and compulsive chains. But, I found some welcome nuggets of wisdom:  

“Over extended periods of time, the patterns become so ingrained that often, only the most significant of negative emotional events are capable of triggering a willingness to eliminate these behaviors from their life. Many have come to identify such an event as “hitting rock bottom”. . . . A person’s life can always get worse; just as it can always get better. And so, ‘rock bottom’ becomes the time in a person’s life when the positive emotional stimulation received from engaging in such behaviors become incapable of balancing the overwhelmingly negative feelings that the person is experiencing. Catastrophic events such as divorce, imprisonment, passing life milestones (e.g. age, career, family) — ironically, events that are often the consequences of the very behaviors they were comforting themselves with — are all capable of producing emotions strong enough to trigger a ‘rock bottom’ situation. Not the possibility of these events, mind you…but the events themselves. For these patterns to change, the person must experience the realization that the choices that they have made in their life were wrong. Not morally, but wrong for the life that they want to live. Most often, this is accomplished at a time when they realize that no amount of compulsive behavior will allow them to re-establish a sense of emotional balance.”

The foregoing paragraph is a good description of the role D-day played in my life. D-day is what we call the day my wife discovered that I had been deceitful and adulterous. For me, that was rock bottom because it made the possibility of losing my wife, my best and only friend, real and urgent.

The exercise for this chapter asks me to give two examples of compulsive chains in my life. As with chapter 26, I think I have exhausted what I have to say about compulsive behavior in my life. I’m eager to move on to the next unit of Recovery Nation.

Skeletons in the closet 

Have you ever thought seriously about that old figure of speech? “Skeletons in the closet” has become such a ubiquitous phrase that today is the first day in my 46 years of life that I actually imagined — fully imagined — how I might feel if I were to actually come across a skeleton in my closet.

Picture it. You’re moving about your house, perhaps getting ready for work or school in the morning, or maybe making breakfast with your family on a weekend. You’re happy, or at least content. You’re a bit groggy, working on your first cup of coffee. You’re talking about world events, family business, and things you share only with your spouse and children. In this pleasant state, you walk to the bedroom closet to look for something you need quickly. Alone for a moment in the slightly dark closet, you suddenly brush against something cold and hard, something that should not be there.

Your blood runs cold. A chill runs through you. A wave of shock hits you in the head. As you turn and look around, you find yourself face to face with a human skull. Panic wells up throughout your body. You suddenly remember with increasing clarity the moment, years ago, when you had hidden that skeleton there, assuming neither you nor anyone else would ever find it again. You get a flash of crystal clear memory of the moment you had placed that skeleton there, five years ago, quickly and carefully hiding it in a part of the closet no one but you ever accessed.

You’re caught red-handed. And, you are the person who apprehended you. You find yourself in the surreal situation of remembering that you had a double life, that there once was another you, that you were once a different person.

That happened to me on a recent weekend morning. I was making breakfast with TL and our two young sons. We were relaxed. The tone was happy. TL pleasantly and matter-of-factly recalled the day, probably five years ago, when we had taken on a new babysitter for the boys, one whom we all recall fondly. We had called her into service that first time because our previous babysitter had cancelled only a day or so prior to a big event TL and I were to attend together.

Right then it hit me, the heartbreaking memory of what I was doing and where I was at the moment the old babysitter had called and texted that she had sprained her ankle. At the time of her call, I was driving back from having searched for a prostitute.

I still can’t recall whether I had indeed found a prostitute that evening. But, I was definitely driving back from the area where they commonly walked. There I was, pulled over to the side of the road to see who was calling and why. At that moment, my two double lives collided. As I was sneaking my way home from a hurtful, dangerous, illegal, and selfish endeavor, I was suddenly snapped back into thinking about how to arrange babysitting so TL and I could go out together to do something special to us as a couple.

That memory popped up the other morning when I least expected it. I had not avoided it. I had forgotten it was there. My heart stopped for a moment. I had a sinking feeling. I was flushed with fear and shock simultaneously.

I was briefly so very happy to hear TL remember such a good time in our lives, as we prepared for the big event. At the same time, I was heartbroken to recall that under the shadows, in that same day I had been so deep into a shameful, hurtful, wasteful double life.  I envisioned Sadness touching the memory vessels in Inside Out and turning them blue.  I cried. Inside, to myself, I cried.

I knew I had to tell her. I feared how it would affect her. I remembered my promises, to find those memories and share them. I remembered her pleading for more memories and me knowing that they would only come like this, in shocking, unexpected assaults in the darkness as I stumble through the minefield of life, the minefield of memories.

But, that’s how I find those memories. I actively search for more. But, when I actively search, I find nothing. They are too deeply buried in 46 years of love, hate, fear, joy, and everything in between, including punch-drunk numbness.

The memories I find to share with TL almost always hit me like this, when I least expect them. That’s when I know they are genuine and clear. That’s the moment when fear and shame about the memory meet up with a small dose of relief that I did find a memory, and a small dose of hope that sharing the memory with TL will help restore her sense of safety and perhaps bring us a bit closer together.

I guess this memory is actually creating a new memory, even as I speak and write about it. The new memory is sad, tearfully sad, but little streaks of wisdom and even hope appear if I strain my eyes.

How do I know I love my wife?

This is a tough question. I am firmly convinced that I love TL. I also believe I did not understand how to love anyone, including perhaps myself, before D-day. I believe it took post-D-day shock and studying for me to learn that love is not judgmental and that love is wanting the best for the other person.

Can I prove to anyone, myself included, that I love her? Can I explain to anyone, myself included, how I know I love her? Maybe not. I don’t know.

I know how I feel. I want to be with her. I’m attracted to her. I’m proud of her. I depend on her. Yes, ironic though it is for me to say this, I trust her. I feel safe with her. Being with her is being “home.” I can relax in her presence, mostly. I share almost all of her opinions about politics, religion, society, and the world.

I do want the best for her. I do want her to be safe and happy. She is the single most important person in my life.

It will undoubtably remain difficult now for me to prove to TL, or to observers, that I love her. As a beginning, I can prove to myself that I love her by remembering I want her safety and happiness above all else.

Did I consciously seek to hurt or humiliate my wife?

TL is firmly convinced that I actively and consciously wished to harm her and humiliate her. I am convinced that is not true, and that instead I thoughtlessly hurt and humiliated her through my self-centered and non-loving behavior. To use an analogy, I was not a cold-blooded murderer, but I was a dangerous drunken driver. That’s not to say that my actions were beyond my control. No, I was in control and my choices. But, I chose selfishness, not premeditated attacks.

I cannot prove my contention. I could even be wrong about it. Maybe in my sick jealousy and feelings of inferiority vis a vis my wife I subconsciously wished her emotional harm. Maybe that is what happened. I don’t really know.

I believe my actions came from selfishness, self-centeredness, and disregard for my wife and everyone else. Why can’t that be the answer? Must it be that I consciously chose to harm and humiliate my wife, not just as a result of my actions, but also as a motivation for my actions?  

This is not a rhetorical question. I’d really like to hear some other points of view on this.

My therapist says it’s not uncommon for people as sickly selfish as I was to make irrational choices. I think she’s right.

To remind the reader of some examples, I humiliated my wife by going out in public with an affair partner in settings where friends and colleagues might very well have figured out what I was doing. In another example, I slept with dangerously unclean prostitutes in a disease-ridden environment and then failed to use protection with TL.

Was a desire to hurt and humiliate my wife the motivation for such behaviors on my part? I don’t think so. I sure hope I’m right about that. Right or wrong, I regret my actions and I will do anything I can to attempt to repair the damage.

“The work:” reading, practicing and journaling 

On another day without Internet today, what can I do next in terms of introspection and “doing the work?” I suppose the Internet is not essential for this work. I was again stuck in a long portion of Recovery Nation that seemed to me to be redundant. 

I need to think of something deeper, new, and innovative. But, those types of thoughts don’t come often, and they can’t be manufactured.

In my last post I left off talking about starving the bad wolf. That, if I recall from my behavior psychology class, is cognitive conditioning. I do think it is helping.

So, how should I devote time to it each day? Reading, on the topic of recovery, seemed to make sense to me. That’s one thing I liked about Recovery Nation: that it provided a structure for relevant (somewhat) reading.

When unable to use the Internet for reading, I think “practicing” or “exercising” good thoughts and good behaviors makes sense. Isn’t that why many people of faith — any faith — use prayer and meditation?

I suppose the other thing I can do, and am doing, is journaling. I think that’s partly what I’m doing with this blog.

Taking stock: how far I’ve come and where next

I’m not going to list all the work I’ve done here. But, let me metaphorically take my pulse.  

I have no desire to do anything selfish, dishonest, adulterous, or hurtful. I have no doubt that I am in control of my decisions. I have built as much transparency into my life, work, and marriage as I can. I have organized my time and my priorities in a way that focuses narrowly on the most important tasks relating to family, work, and maintaining a healthy mind, body, and soul. There is so much light and so much focus in my life that there is no room for selfish thoughts or pursuits. More importantly, my decisions are motivated by integrity, loyalty, and compassion.

So, what now? What work should I do now? And, how and why? I believe I’ve identified the thoughts, or types of thoughts, that are the prime risk factor, motivator, or cause of my long history of conscious decisions to be selfish, dishonest, adulterous, or hurtful. Those were thoughts of self-pity, associated with feeling inferior, jealous, or threatened with regard to sexuality, sexual history, and sexual experience. Those were the thoughts that made me angry, and made me feel entitled to “catch up” or “correct the imbalance.”

So, I feel confident, as I said in the beginning of this writing, that I will not respond badly to such thoughts of anger and entitlement. Is my next task to reach a point where such thoughts never even come to mind at all? If so, I’m making good progress. The last time I was really pursued by such thoughts was approximately June of 2014.  

Is that good enough progress? I hope so. But, I don’t know. Since I don’t know, it might be best to keep trying to develop a way to prevent such thoughts from ever recurring. How do I do that? One good therapist talked a lot about the value of creating new neural pathways. In other words, practice makes perfect. If I exercise my “good thinking muscles” they may become stronger. If I neglect my “bad thinking muscles” they may atrophy. I should feed the good wolf. That seems quite logical to me.

Can I kill the bad wolf by starving it? Maybe. Should I? I think so. Why not? These questions are a big part of my work going forward. Does that seem like the right direction? 

(Yes, I should ask my current therapist too. She, by the way, contends that therapy should be finite. I’m not yet sure why.)


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.


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



Values-based decisions, not emotion-based decisions 

Chapter 25 of Recovery Nation starts to sound relevant again. “Because when all is said and done, there is no such thing as compulsive behavior. At least, compulsive to the point where you have no control over your actions. As you will learn, all behavior has the potential to be broken down at the time it is experienced. All “compulsive behavior” can be stopped. All can be turned into rational, values-based decisions…rather than perpetuated as an emotional response. Any person who acts ‘compulsively’ is in truth, acting through emotional immaturity.”

I was also struck by this passage, which addresses the observer’s incredulity that I did so many things that were not only selfish, but also irrational, illogical, and self-defeating. “Because you are relying solely on your emotions to guide you, you are unable to engage in a rational decision-making process — something that is key to a long-term, healthy, fulfilling life. When basing your decisions on emotions, you are unable to consider the long term consequences of your actions in your decision-making process. You are unable to see the reality of the situation that you are facing. Intellectually, you may very well understand the consequences of your actions, but emotionally…they don’t register. And they won’t until those consequences are put into play — which by that time, is almost always too late to be useful.”

The homework, if I understand it, is to list the elements of one of my own compulsive rituals, perhaps with notes about the beginning, point of no return, and end of the ritual. Let me try one.

Compulsive ritual: tidying or “to-do listing”

I see something untidy or think about the several things I want to or have to do. (Beginning)

I feel overwhelmed and anxious.

I tell myself it won’t take long to tidy a certain area or to complete a certain task.

I begin the task. (Point of no return)

I run low on time for higher priority tasks, rest, or investment in relationships.

I feel overwhelmed and anxious. (End)

Passive-aggressive personality disorder 

The New York Times “Health Guide” has an article by this name. It lists the following symptoms:

Acting sullen

Avoiding responsibility by claiming forgetfulness

Being inefficient on purpose

Blaming others


Feeling resentment

Having a fear of authority

Having unexpressed anger or hostility


Resisting other people’s suggestions

From the foregoing list, these key words stand out as familiar to me:







Trying not to be passive-aggressive, part 2, revisited 

Upon further reflection, maybe there are a couple more possible subconscious passive-aggressive behaviors I have used.

5. “You just want everything to be perfect.” “When procrastination is not an option, a more sophisticated passive aggressive strategy is to carry out tasks in a timely, but unacceptable manner.” I didn’t think this one was applicable, but maybe it is. TL has long told me to fully scrub all dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. I have often said I would do so, only to later get sloppy and stop doing so — or to stop doing it thoroughly. I didn’t do this to spite her. But, I think I did it because I valued my laziness more than I valued her rule.  

7. “Sure, I’d be happy to.” Again, maybe I did do this. I believe I have stopped. But, in years past, I had a habit of offering to get together with someone socially, to host something, or to get the tab at a restaurant while assuming, and perhaps hoping, the listener would politely decline. Maybe this was also a subconscious passive-aggressive behavior. I don’t know. I had always thought it was just a bad habit, learned partly from my patents. When it comes to paying the tab at a restaurant, I learned my lesson about that long ago, on my own. But, I suspect it did take me longer to learn to not offer social commitments insincerely. In any case, I don’t do this anymore

Trying not to be passive-aggressive, part 2

In my last entry on this topic I talked about a terrible example of me promising to protect my wife, promising to use condoms, and then, subconsciously succumbing to my own inner selfishness and laziness, failing to honor my commitment. Just as an aside, another stupid aspect of this is that I suspect condoms would actually improve our sexual experience because I tend to ejaculate too quickly with TL without condoms. Anyway, while I hope I’m not too late to find some way to demonstrate my genuine concern for TL’s safety — greater than for my own selfishness — let me consider other examples of bad behavior that could potentially be labeled passive-aggressive.

4. “I didn’t know you meant now.” “On a related note, passive aggressive persons are master procrastinators. While all of us like to put off unpleasant tasks from time to time, people with passive aggressive personalities rely on procrastination as a way of frustrating others and/or getting out of certain chores without having to directly refuse them.” Is this what I did when I failed to get a therapist immediately after our most recent move, failed to keep up on “the work” after our move, and failed to get a vasectomy until reminded? Consciously, no. I clearly remember that I did not create a conscious strategy for avoiding or delaying those tasks.  

But, did I subconsciously delay as part of a habit of passive-aggressive behavior? Maybe. How can I tell? What can I do about it? I’m not sure. I hope that awareness of my own tendencies and habits goes a long way toward helping me recognize such things in the future and nip them in the bud.

5. “You just want everything to be perfect.” “When procrastination is not an option, a more sophisticated passive aggressive strategy is to carry out tasks in a timely, but unacceptable manner.” Though both my mother and my wife have accused me of this behavior, I am sure I never did this. Nonetheless, I should probably watch myself for this in the future.

6. “I thought you knew.” “Sometimes, the perfect passive aggressive crime has to do with omission. Passive aggressive persons may express their anger covertly by choosing not to share information when it could prevent a problem. By claiming ignorance, the person defends inaction, while taking pleasure in a foe’s trouble and anguish.” Again, I have not done this as part of a conscious strategy. My many lies of omission were motivated by either cowardice or by an active (aggressive-aggressive) intention to deceive. Again, I should watch myself for this behavior in the future.

7. “Sure, I’d be happy to.” Have I ever said something like this, knowing I would not follow through? I have never consciously done this in my marriage. If I ever did it in another context, it was so far in the past that I don’t remember it. Again, I should watch myself for this.

8. “You’ve done so well for someone with your education level.” No, I have always hated when other people said things like this, and I have always actively tried to avoid saying things like this.

9. “I was only joking” “Like backhanded compliments, sarcasm is a common tool of a passive aggressive person who expresses hostility aloud, but in socially acceptable, indirect ways.” Yeah, I’ve done this before. It wasn’t until D-day that I began to look back and realize just how much I had done it and just how inappropriate it was. And, I have made a concerted and — I believe — successful effort to stop doing it.

10. “Why are you getting so upset?” “The passive aggressive person is a master at maintaining calm and feigning shock when others, worn down by his or her indirect hostility, blow up in anger.” No, this was not one of my behaviors.

Trying not to be passive-aggressive 

This week we talked a lot about passive-aggressive behavior. The first thing I noticed was that the examples in the articles I read seemed quite familiar, unlike when I read about sex addiction or sexual compulsion, narcissism, or sociopathy. I can see examples of passive-aggressive behavior in my past. It really appears childish. In fact, it is frustrating when I see it occasionally in our children too. I recognize I need to be vigilant, watching myself for this kind of behavior, and to keep working to eliminate it. At the same time, I think I’ve improved measurably on this issue in recent years.

I read “10 things passive-aggressive people say,” by Signe Whitson. Here are the top three things she listed.

1. I’m not mad.” “Denying feelings of anger is classic passive aggressive behavior.” It has been so long since I’ve done this that I can’t even recall a specific example. But, I’m sure I’ve done this in past years. Now, however, behaving with integrity and courage are two of my highest goals. I consider integrity and courage as guiding values when I decide how to conduct myself in daily life. I don’t avoid people when I leave the office in a timely manner. I don’t hesitate when someone asks me any question at work or in public. I don’t wait to tell people I disagree or that I feel mistreated.

2. “Fine.” “Whatever.” “Sulking and withdrawing from arguments are primary strategies of the passive aggressive person.” I certainly recall being, correctly, criticized for pouting when I was a child. Though I can’t recall specifics, I remember feelings of sulking and pouting in the course of our marriage. I vaguely remember feeling so afraid of or exhausted by discussing disagreements with my wife that I sometimes just capitulated, while growing bitter about having done so. I try so hard not to do this today. The last time I did it was so long ago that I can’t recall.

3. “I’m coming!” “Passive aggressive persons are known for verbally complying with a request, but behaviorally delaying its completion.” This is the behavior that really seems worrisome to me. I know my wife and I continue to be disappointed by specific instances of me saying I would do something and then failing to follow through.  

The most timely example is about condoms. Here’s the gory, but necessary, background. This is the inadequately short version of the story. Ten or so years ago I got herpes from a prostitute in an undeveloped and unclean country, I hid the fact from TL, using a variety of dishonest tactics, until final D-day. I did not begin using condoms or medication with TL, telling myself that careful timing regarding outbreaks would be adequate. It was not.  

Two-and-half years ago TL was diagnosed with herpes. I continued to have sex with her, rarely using condoms. In the past couple of months we have talked a lot about my failure to use condoms. I purchased some condoms and vowed to never again have sex with her without condoms. Yes, she already has herpes and we have both tested negative for all other diseases tests can find. But, we, including doctors, don’t know what we don’t know.  

The reason I describe all this here is to question whether my failure to use condoms was a passive-aggressive act. Was I consciously refusing to use condoms to hurt TL? No.  

Was I consciously refusing to do so because I innately valued my convenience and my pleasure more than her well-being? No, not consciously.  

What about subconsciously? Maybe. On some level, I had apparently chosen my convenience and pleasure over TL’s physical and emotional safety. It was not a conscious choice. Nonetheless, it was my choice.  

Does that make me someone who can never again be trusted to choose TL over myself? I don’t know. I hope not. At least, unlike before, I now see what I have been doing, and can watch myself for similar failings in the future.  

Is it enough? Would she be safer leaving me? I don’t know. I hope I’m not too late, again.

How to help your spouse heal from your affair

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


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:

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.

Looking at your own lost innocence 

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

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

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

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

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.


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.

Polygraph, from the cheater’s perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Polygraph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One step along the path forward.

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.



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.


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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.

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.


Henden, E., Melberg, H., & Røgeberg, O. (2013). Addiction: Choice or Compulsion? Frontiers in Psychiatry4, 77.

Unknown author. (n.d.) Tale of two wolves. Retrieved from

Wolves image retrieved from


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!

What if he pulls the plug?

TL recently spoke of wanting to give her healing its own trajectory, independent of mine, so that I won’t drag her down when I experience my own ups and downs on my sea of healing. I had a little trouble fully understanding it, until I created a metaphor.

TL and I are in a swimming pool.  We call the pool “reconciliation.”  Some days I float atop the water, happy and relaxed.  Other days I struggle to tread water.  Similarly, some days TL floats happily, and other days she struggles to stay afloat.

There is a single, large drain at the bottom of the pool.  A sturdy plug stops the drain, preventing the water, and us, from draining away into the nearby ocean.  Actually, when I look at the plug, I see a heavy, strong plug that can’t be knocked out accidentally by rough waters or inadvertent motions, and probably can’t be moved by one person.  However, when TL looks at the same plug, she sees a lightweight, cheaply-made piece of plastic that could easily be accidentally  dislodged by turbulent waters or by a single person behaving carelessly.  Which of us is right?  Who knows?  That’s a subject of frequent discussion between us.

The ocean is called “divorce.”  If I got sucked through the drain into the ocean, I could probably swim just fine.  But, I wouldn’t necessarily be so close to TL.  I would miss her.  TL is a strong swimmer too, and she’s getting stronger.  She’s a bit worried about sharks out there.  But, she would get along fine out there in the ocean.

We both want to stay together in the pool.  TL wants to be able to relax in the pool.  Instead, she keeps worrying.  Every time I dip my head below water, she fears I’ll somehow knock the plug out of the drain.  I feel very confident that the drain is secure.  I try not to scare TL by dipping my head below the water.  But, sometimes I simply can’t avoid a quick dip beneath the surface.  I’m trying to become better at floating on the surface.  But, it worries TL when she sees me still working on it.

So, there’s the dilemma for TL.  She wants to relax and float in the pool, but she can’t stop worrying about me and that drain.

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

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.