Tag Archives: FOO

“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?

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Mom

My mother was an addict. She was addicted to prescription opiates, before it was so widely talked about. She kept a shoebox full of other prescription drugs as well. In addition to her opiate based painkillers she took ever increasing doses of Elavil. Different doctors, different pills. At 12 years old, I knew more drug names than any 12-year old should know.

My mom’s addiction overtook her body and mind. The addiction escalated requiring more and more drugs to achieve her desired affect. In the mornings, she would follow me around as I got ready for school, non-stop talking at me. By the time I got home from school, she was groggy and slurring her words. She seemed to go back and forth between those two states. There were times she attempted to manage the addiction. She would reduce dosage, gain some clarity, and pull me in with hope that it would now be better. It never lasted long and the drugs were back.

Her mind and body rotted before our eyes. When I would question her use of these drugs, she claimed she was sick and that I just didn’t understand her sickness, that she needed those drugs. She would go to Canada whenever she could, so she could stock-up,  as they sold Tylenol with Codeine over-the-counter. I was called selfish and uncaring for not “understanding” her sickness.

She used fake suicide attempts to gain sympathy and attention, to manipulate our sympathies. We moved to another state for a few years. When I was in jr. high school, she swallowed some pills and told me I needed to call an ambulance. I didn’t believe her. We had been down that road too many times before. She called the ambulance for herself. They pumped her stomach, they found nothing, but my Dad could have her observed overnight if he chose. We had no health insurance. She begged him not to let them keep her for observation, he acquiesced. We moved back “home” not long after. I remember when I was 20 years old, a junior in college in my hometown, she did it again. She ended up in the hospital. I went to visit her, at my Aunt and Grandpa’s request, and her doctor mentioned the situation as being her first suicide attempt. I was floored, what?

Her father and sister (my Grandpa and Aunt who I love dearly) protected mom from the consequences of her actions. They knew better, but let her create her own narrative. I explained her past to the doctor. He told me he would have her put in a facility to help her. I was so happy, she was finally going to get help. She threw a fit. My Grandpa stepped in. It so happens that my Grandma’s brother was a highly respected attorney and founding partner of the most distinguished firm in town. Grandpa dropped his name and threatened to sue. My mom was not sent to the facility. I was so disappointed. Her doctor suggested I learn about how to set boundaries with her and my family to protect myself emotionally and referred me to my college counseling clinic. I went.

Eventually, I came to understand that I could not save her. Though, I think until the day she died, I held a tiny piece of hope that she would eventually come to save herself. Of course, it never happened. After years of escalating drug use, my mom died at 65 years old from heart failure.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a very long time. Not sure why? I know it is part of who I am and how I relate to my world. I know it. I lost my mom to addiction, long before she ever died, I lost my mom to addiction. Deep breath.

 

Addiction Recovery and Your Family of Origin

I read the Recovery Nation supplemental lesson on family of origin. Again, I want to quote a few passages that seemed relevant to me.
“Further development involving this person’s “family values” might include taking the time to understand the toxic effects of the environment in which they were raised, or learning to integrate associated values (like forgiveness and compassion). The point is, no matter what your past holds, from abuse to blissfulness, if you are struggling with compulsive sexual and/or romantic behavior–further developing the values associated with your family of origin will help to balance/stimulate your emotional life.”

“For children, one of the most important roles a family can play is to provide them with a safe, nurturing environment where they have the opportunity to test and develop their social boundaries–boundaries that will later be used to develop healthy relationships outside of their family structure. Too often, when these boundaries are not properly developed, further social development is retarded, thus creating an additional stressor throughout the person’s life. A common example of this would be the domineering parent who extorted nearly constant behavioral control over the child throughout their childhood and early teen years, thus stripping them of the critical ability to develop confidence in managing their own emotional awareness and decision-making.”

“Additional sources of familial stress might stem from the parenting style in which you were raised: with authoritative, critical and/or perfectionistic parenting styles triggering lifelong issues with anxiety, lack of confidence and overall emotional imbalance/low self-esteem. Or, you may have derived stress from a constant parental pressure to succeed in all areas of your life. For some, after many years of struggling with such “family issues”, you may have even made the conscious decision to resign yourself to the fact that you will never have the opportunity to experience the power and positive emotions that can be produced by an association with a healthy family. Which, of course, is a deception…but one that provides a temporary relief over the alternative.”

“Can one be happy without ever experiencing it? Yes, but it will take an extraordinary emotional adjustment, with the family being replaced by some other significant nurturing target–like God, or animals.”

“Otherwise, it is not hard to see how the development of relationship addictions and romantic obsessions might be used to balance the enormous emotional burden of not experiencing the unconditional love sought through one’s family. Even those adults who go on to connect with their own spouse/children in a deeply emotional way, continue to require a personal connection to their family or origin (whether that family is biological or not is irrelevant). Those who have broken their ties with their family of origin (either through choice or through circumstance) will continue to suffer emotional consequences as a result of this disruption. Granted, the amount of relief gained from the disruption may outweigh the stress that continuing the relationship would have otherwise caused, but stress will be experienced when a person has no healthy connection to their “family of origin”–and their parents, in particular.”

The exercise with this lesson says: “Spend fifteen minutes thinking about the role your family has played in your life. As you think, consider the following:”

“1) What does unconditional love mean to you, and have you ever experienced it? From whom? Towards whom?”

“2) How did the parental style in which you were raised affect you both positively/negatively?”

I think I had unconditional love from my father, and he was present in my life. But, I think the amount of time I spent with my mother dwarfed the amount of time I spent with my father, or with any other human being. She was omnipresent, in my mind. And, in my admittedly biased memories, hardly any other person was ever present. My only sibling was born when I was five-years old. In my memory, other relatives, friends, neighbors, or others were rarely present, very rarely. I thought that my mother went out of her way to discourage friends and acquaintances, even shunning her own friendships and her own relatives. I’m sure I exaggerate that situation in my own memories, but it does capture my feelings.

I never thought much about whether my mother loved me, unconditionally or otherwise. She often said she loved me, so I figured she did. She probably did, and does. But, I recall constantly resenting her. Though it may be another exaggeration in my own mind, I thought she inappropriately controlled every aspect of my life: where I went, what I did, what I ate, what I wore, my entire grooming and appearance, with whom I associated, what I watched on television, what music I heard, and more. I also always thought that all my peers had enormous amounts of freedom that I did not have. I’m sure I focused too much on my negative view of the situation. I especially say that now that I have one son who is constantly complaining that everyone in the world except him gets to watch raunchy movies and have no bedtime.

Did I have unconditional love from my parents? Maybe I did. But, I didn’t think I did. Did I give unconditional love? No, probably never. I think I only gave unconditional love to pets. I thought I was giving unconditional love to my own children, but later realized I was somehow communicating some sort of unrealistic expectations about athletic interests to them. As for giving unconditional love to TL, that’s something I’ve been trying to learn since D-day.

I have long blamed my mother’s parenting style for preventing me from learning how to make my own healthy decisions. I do learn rather slowly from my own mistakes. Perhaps my mother assumed that meant I would never learn. I’ve also written about how I believe my mother’s own inner struggle between freedom and her Victorian upbringing was passed down to me. In short, she told me progressive modernism was smart and good, but she behaved as though anything other than a strictly conservative lifestyle was evil. She also taught me that sex was an unspeakably evil act, women were only for marrying, and she did not want me to marry or grow up. Among other things, that upbringing put little or no value on maturity and taking on adult responsibilities. In fact, I believed those things were discouraged, and that they would hurt my mother’s feelings too much.

My past marriage is dead

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

A couple quotes stood out to me,

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking of Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, that dream has shaken me.

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

Behaving like a child in the marriage 

Like Freud, B divided our personalities into three parts.  Unlike Freud, with his concept of the id, superego, and ego, B called these parts the child, adult, and adult-computer.  The way I understand it, the adult part is moral and nurturing, whereas the adult-computer part is rational.  Today I was reading something — I don’t recall what — that made me see a certain part of my adultery with new understanding.

Back when I was screwing the maid, my second affair partner, I had drawn away from TL as a friend.  I had also, once again, begun pursuing sex covertly, rather than addressing it openly with TL.  Today while reading, I realized that both behaviors resulted from me retreating to the child part of my personality.

I remembered going through some difficulties at work during that time, due in equal parts to a conflict between my boss and almost everyone else, my attempt to please my boss as well as everyone else, and my failure to be guided by courage and integrity rather than by hopes that pleasing everyone would work out.  During that time TL was away for security reasons. During our calls she tried to talk to me about work.  I shut down and failed to confide in her.

Today I finally see clearly that I had been failing to relate to TL as a friend, as an equal, and as an adult. Instead, I had been equating the situation to my youth and casting TL in the role of my mother.  In my youth I eventually stopped confiding in my mother about life’s daily challenges because my mother would either insert herself, exert her will on the situation, and take over; and/or she would make irrational excuses for the problem, making up conspiracy theories and generally blaming other people, even when the responsibility for the problem was my own. TL was never anything like my mother; my view of the situation was pathological, based in a lifetime of bad mental habits, not based in reality.

So, in those phone conversations with TL during that troubled time, I let my child persona come forward, treating TL with suspicion and fear rather than with friendship, and hiding my desires from her just as I had long hid them from my mother.  I could have done better. Here’s how.  I could have called on the adult-computer part of my personality and reasoned that distancing myself from TL was going to undermine our marriage.  Better yet, I could have called on the adult part of my personality, using its moral focus to learn to behave with integrity, at work and at home, and using its nurturing tendency to give and receive the comfort and friendship that would have helped us both.

I could take this as a lesson that my mother could have helped me long ago by not making sex a taboo topic to be pursued only covertly and by not punishing me for trying to confide in her.  But, that’s less important today.  I can’t undo the failures in my life education from my parents.  Sadly, I also can’t undo the betrayal and disregard I inflicted on TL.  What I can do is frequently check in with the three parts of my personality and be sure that today, and everyday, my adult persona is out in the lead.

An epiphany

An epiphany, or maybe it is just one too many glasses of wine. . .With the boys away, the moms went out for dinner and drinks. Ah, it was nice.

So, yesterday, I mentioned how after my mom died, I was finally able to let go of my anger and resentment and find forgiveness. In her case, a big part of that was simply letting go of hoping she could and would find earthly redemption. I’ll get back to that point some day.  This post, however, is about the fact that when I let go of the anger and resentment, I found emptiness.

I found emptiness that I had ignored, not seen, not admitted to, I’m not sure. But, in that emptiness, I also started seeing more clearly just how empty my relationship with MC had become. I expressed this to him to no avail, asking for us to seek help together. He saw no problems needing help. I found anger toward him that I had not allowed myself to find before. He was selfish. I admitted to myself his many daily actions were selfish. And I began to lose patience. I began to question. I had no idea just how deep that selfishness ran. But, my eyes were slowly opening. And, then d-day hit just one year later. I don’t think that was a coincidence. 

I now have a heart too often filled with anger and resentment again. Perhaps it is time to let it go and allow emptiness to take its place, face the emptiness head-on. And, then, from that place start filling the emptiness from within. Well, it sounds right in theory anyway. Putting that into practice is an entirely different matter.

Thought for the day

Reading blogs. Then MC and I were chatting via text. He’s away with our youngest. I don’t do tents. 🙂

Just some thoughts from blog conversations, from conversations with MC, from counseling and therapy. It all feels so piecemeal. I just want to put this together all in one post. So this is likely a bit of a rehash, but hopefully a more cohesive one. I like cohesion!

So, one thing we often talk about is how sex was the symptom and sign. Horrible and unacceptable in every way, but still a sign and a symptom. A sign and a symptom of an inner core based on selfishness, cowardice and self-pity.

So in counseling we often talk about neural pathways. Our counselor equated these pathways to a superhighway that is built in our brain based on thoughts, behaviors, actions and reactions over the course of our life. We talk about how MC built a superhighway based on the selfishness, cowardice and self-pity (feeding the bad wolf) and  how he is now working to build a new superhighway based on empathy, gratitude and courage (feeding the good wolf). She is supportive of the idea that he can build this new pathway, but that it must be a conscious and constant choice and effort to do so. As he chooses to abandon the old highway, it becomes less strong, it crumbles from disuse. As he continues to make healthy choices, as he continues to choose to be guided by empathy, gratitude and courage, it strengthens this new superhighway.

So, MC and I were texting. What is at the core the selfishness, cowardice and self-pity? Anger, resentment and fear!  Anger, resentment and fear were the cement used in the building of that foundation of selfishness, cowardice and self-pity. Letting go of those resentments and anger, facing his fears allows him to stop choosing that old superhighway in the first place, allows him to finally let it crumble from disuse. How do you do that? Well, we come back to counseling, to AR and to religious teaching as well here. First, is acting with courage, facing fears. Second, is through forgiveness.

Facing his fears means finding his voice and using it, lovingly, but using it. This allows him to not become a victim of his own fears, preventing anger and resentment from building in the first place. Facing his fears means being lovingly honest even in the face of likely anger directed at him as a result, even in the face of potentially losing something or someone he does not want to lose. Facing his fears with loving honesty allows him to build esteem as an adult, to not place himself or allow himself to be placed in the role of a child.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean he has a relationship with his mom or others who are unsafe, or that he accepts misbehavior from such people. In fact, facing his fears is not allowing such things to occur. What it does mean is that he accepts that the past can never be different, can never be better. He accepts that holding on to anger and resentment will only hurt himself and push those he loves and those who love him away.

MC:  My lesson for the day may be that I began with anger toward my mom and then generalized that into a certain anger against all people, perhaps especially women. Empathy may be one key to overcoming that anger. Selflessness is also necessary.  I could not forgive as long as I saw the whole world centered on me.

Both of our moms had resentment and anger that fueled their own self-pity and selfishness.  After my Mom died, I felt so alone in the world because of the realization that both my parents were truly gone, with no hope of earthly redemption. I now realize that I was also a mourning the loss of that anger within me. I had held on to it for so many years on some level. I was finally able to forgive her. I was free of the anger and resentment.

I did not fear my mom the way MC feared his mom, so that is another layer he must work through here. And, I see him doing that, but it is a continuing journey.

After writing all of this out in one place, it hit me. How could it not? Forgiveness, this is why my own working toward forgiveness is so important for my own health and sanity as well. And, not just mine, but for our children. We must stop the cycle of anger and resentment being passed down from generation to generation.

 

 

Failure of the decision-making process

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

State of Nature

I often see discussion in the infidelity blogosphere aimed at identifying some condition or ailment that compelled adulterers to cheat and lie.  This diagnostic quest strikes me as backwards.  I think of Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature, in which all are in competition against all, and life is “nasty, brutish, and short.”  Living beings would exist this way in the absence of some organizing system such as family, pack, tribe, or society.  It’s not that there is some ailment or condition compelling the competition of all against all.  It is the pre-existing and normal state.

Civilization, interdependence, and perhaps love and compassion are the antidotes to this state of nature.  I believe that in most cases people don’t move, psychologically, away from civilization, interdependence, love, and compassion due to some condition or ailment.  Rather, they stay in a metaphorical state of nature because they fail to acquire the ingredients of civilization, interdependence, love, and compassion.  Have you read Lord of the Flies?

I also see our late, great Belgian Shepard as an example of this.  I think we’ve described before how she was loving to us but sounded aggressive to some strangers.  She was cowardly.  She did have a traumatic puppyhood.  But, her problem was not that her troubled youth caused her to lose the quiet canine confidence that makes for a well-behaved dog.  Rather, her problem was a failure to acquire the courage necessary to behave properly. We never invested the time and energy it would have required to modify our dog’s behavior.

I hear betrayed spouses asking, “What’s wrong with my poor, traumatized adulterous mate? Why can’t he cope properly?  What about his troubled youth caused him to behave this way?  Why must he cope through adultery?”  That’s the wrong question.  They should be asking, “What’s right about me?  What’s right about me, that allowed me to remain faithful regardless of any difficulties I may have experienced?”

The adulterous spouse does not need to be coddled and “cured.”  Rather, he needs to learn some things he should have learned long ago.  If I am physically weak, I cannot remove weakness from my body.  But, I can add muscle mass, stamina, and agility.  That reduces weakness.  If I am academically weak, I cannot remove stupidity from my mind.  But, I can add education and intellectual rigor to my life.  Doing so reduces ignorance, and potentially alleviates stupidity.

So, what does the adulterous spouse need to acquire?  He needs to acquire responsibility:  acceptance that he must either change things he does not like, or stop indulging in self-pity.  He needs to take responsibility for his own happiness, and stop blaming his spouse, his mother, other people, or God.  He needs to take responsibility for his own happiness, and stop hoping that someone will join him in pitying him and grant him happiness as some cosmic act of mercy or justice.  I speak from personal experience on this point.

Second, the adulterous spouse needs to acquire an understanding of love.  Love is not the hope that my mate will meet my needs.  Rather, my love is my hope for the best for my mate, regardless of my needs.  Love is not my expectation that my mate will be perfect for me.  Rather, it is my complete acceptance of her, regardless of perfection or imperfection.

Those are the two most important things he ought to acquire.  He would also do well to acquire compassion, empathy, listening skills, and sincere concern for something greater than himself.

I’m trying to nurture my positive, loving skills, and, in so doing, to exorcise my negative, self-centered instincts. I’m feeding the good wolf.  You know that story, right?  Two wolves fight for dominance within us, one good, one evil.  The young boy asks his grandfather which will win.  The older man answers, “The one you feed.”  As you feed the good wolf, by the way, you are simultaneously starving the bad wolf.

Finding me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If Only

Baker asked, “What in your past has caused you to have the “if onlys”? “If only” I had stopped ___________________________ years ago. “If only” __________________________ hadn’t left me. ”  This is a big question for me.  “If only” is one of top things on the list of dangerous habits I’ve worked to overcome.  I can recall all the ways I abused this phrase, to my detriment.  Then, I can categorize them.  The most troublesome category for me was the “if onlys” that were always beyond my control.  I was basically bemoaning fate.  I was angry at God, the universe, and everyone, for my situation.  I blamed everyone but me.  Here they are.

1. If only my parents gave me more freedom, I would be more normal and would have experiences like normal kids have.
2. If only I wasn’t from a conservative rural community, I would have had normal experiences like normal people have.

There really wasn’t much I could have done to change those two facts of life.  The fact is I am from a small, conservative family in a small, conservative community.  I spent decades feeling sorry for myself for those facts.  I used them as an excuse for jealousy and pettiness.  I used them as an excuse to cheat, telling myself life had been unfair to me and that I was simply seeking some sort of justice.  I used them as an excuse for overindulgence, in alcohol, porn, and sex, telling myself, incorrectly, everyone else was doing it and that I had to keep up.  I used them as an excuse for taking ridiculous risks, with health, heart, and reputation, again telling myself, incorrectly, that I had to catch up with everyone else.

In retrospect, I did have some healthier options for gaining some control in regard to those facts.  I could not have changed them.  But, I could have, and should have, changed my view of them.  I should have put them into perspective.  So, I was eighteen years behind college peers in regard to some social and worldly experiences.  So, what?  It’s not a competition.  I thought it was.  It’s not.  I think I competed on those inappropriate comparisons, in an attempt to like myself, because I did not feel confident competing in healthy ways, such as sports. Why not compete on academic or artistic pursuits?  Because, I had gotten it into my head that academic or artistic success was antithetical to social success.  It’s not.  But, as a young boy, I thought it was.

In fact, social success is ultimately what I really wanted, what I really thought would make me feel good.  Why did social success become the end all, be all for me?  I did a little scan of literature on this question.  It seems pursuit of social success is rather normal. I talked with TL about this question.  We suspect I became obsessed with the pursuit of social success because I was socially isolated.  In short, the combination of a controlling mother and some effects of being a minority brought me some social isolation.  I perpetuated the isolation in college by choosing not to have a roommate and choosing to live in a dorm full of people who were absolutely nothing like me.

In any case, I should have chosen a healthier view of my conservative upbringing.  I should have not wasted time and energy viewing it as a cause for competition and comparison.  Also, at age forty-six, and more so with each passing day, those original eighteen years of my life become smaller and smaller in relation to who I am now and what I’ve done since.

The next “if only” that comes to mind is also something that could be less troublesome if I had simply chosen not to obsess on it.  Directly related to the pursuit of social success, I used to say to myself:  “If only girls liked me more, I would be happier.”  In retrospect, girls liked me well enough, particularly on the rare occasions when I relaxed and didn’t worry about it.  But, I spent disproportionate amounts of time and energy worrying about this issue.  And, whatever good things came my way, I wrongly told myself they were not good enough.

Then, there’s an “if only” that appeared to be beyond my control, but over which I actually had much more control than I thought:  “If only God had made me bigger, faster, and stronger, I would be more successful.”  As a child, I thought I could not affect those variables.  I believe that my mother, in an unsuccessful attempt to make me feel better, reinforced the idea that those  things were immutable, constantly telling me they were unimportant and that everyone was simply different.  Later in life, I learned that I could improve my body if I tried.  But, I would have been happier and more successful had I learned that in elementary school rather than in college.

Finally, there are the “if onlys” that were entirely within my control.  I made the decision I thought was right at the time, based on the information I had at the time.  I took a risk, or not. And, now those decision points are firmly anchored in the past.  They are:

1. If only I hadn’t dated S for nearly four years, I would have had more interesting experiences in college.
2. If only I had gone to law school, I would now have a profession.
3. If only I had joined the military as a young man, I would now have more career options.

Occasionally, I am tempted to get upset about those past decisions.  But, it’s relatively easy to talk myself down, reminding myself that those things are in the past, and that I can only affect things in the present and the future.

In sum, the “if onlys” that led me to justify cheating and lying were essentially my anger at the circumstances of my birth family.  I have stopped being angry about those things.  But, it took me decades to get there, and I almost lost everything along the way, by choosing irrational anger over pragmatism, hope, hard work, and perspective.

TL: “Sometimes, I just really still need my dad.”

You know, the last few days have been rough ones for me emotionally. We have so much up in the air right now in our lives. I was always so careful in our past. Prior to d-day I never allowed us to carry consumer debt of any kind. Now, we are under it and it is killing me inside. I need to finish this degree, I need to know where the fuck we are going next, and then I MUST find a job!  All of this, plus the other things we’ve recently discussed in the blog, let’s just say I am a wreck. I had a few tears and a lot of talking with MC. He’s deeply exploring and going to write about that in upcoming days.

Yesterday, I found myself wishing my dad were here. For the first time in a few years, while kids were at school, I spent a bit of time crying over missing and still needing my dad. You know, there are some in my family who are big believers in the paranormal. I’ve always tried to tell myself it is complete hogwash, irrational, illogical, etc. Only, since our youngest first started talking, there were weird conversations and incidents that would be described that made even me wonder, that made even MC (even less believing than me in such things) wonder. Our little one is smart, tenacious, witty, questioning and sometimes the things that come out of that child’s mouth, well. . .

Last night at dinner, our little one starts asking about my dad. This was completely out of the blue; the topic of Grandpa had not come up in a very long time. What was he like? Why did he get sick? Was he nice? Wishing Grandpa could spend time with us. Usually when I talk of my dad, I do so with a feeling of bittersweet nostalgia. He died so very many years ago. He was only a year older than I am right now when he died. I told our youngest that I know Grandpa would love to be a part of their lives and the tears started flowing from my eyes, I just couldn’t help it. My kids have never seen me cry over my dad. The kids and MC all gathered around me in a big loving, group hug.

If these things could be true, if such ability to sense was really possible, then maybe my dad was here with us last night and my little one sensed his presence. Maybe? Or, maybe just the thought of that is something I wouldn’t mind believing to be true right now. Maybe, sometimes, I just really still need my dad.

TL: Now you see it

We talk about love a bit on this blog and by now you all know what that means to us. But, I was thinking about the one aspect of the definition that is separating out giving love freely and willingly, not because you feel you must, not to receive something in return, but just because you want the best for the other person.

I think I need to explain this a bit better in terms of why the non-transactional nature of love is now so important to me.

My brother is exceptionally gifted. While I am a hard-working, intelligent enough woman, my brother has a photographic memory, an IQ near 160 and was our mother’s pride. Mom would talk endlessly about him and forget to even mention that I existed. As a little girl, I would ask my mom “what is special about me?” And she never did have an answer, never. My dad was different. He was so proud of me, of how hard I worked, he thought I could do anything I set my mind to do. I knew it, I felt it, I saw it. And, yet I wanted that from Mom too.

As an aside, I know my brother felt that our dad favored me, as much as I felt our mom favored him. I think it was the source of so much of our horrible fights as kids. As teens we became exceptionally close. My brother and I have drifted from each other in years since. He couldn’t take our family’s dynamic and cut off ties with all but me after college. I completely understand his need to do this for his own mental health. I love him, I know he loves me. With time, age and physical distance, we are not as close as we used to be, but we still want the best for the other.

My point here was that I tried so hard to win my mom’s love. I kept hoping, praying, trying to win her love. I thought if I had something special about me, then maybe she would love me too. I do wonder if part of why I went with her when my parents divorced is because I thought if I took care of her, she would love me. Only, it never did work out that way.

After my parents divorced, my brother went with our dad and I went with her. I was expected to be the adult, until she didn’t like what I had to say. She was dating an alcoholic, uneducated, illiterate man that she met in a bar. She wanted me to flatter him, give him hugs when he came to visit her, to treat him adoringly. I was polite, but distant. She kicked me out when I was 16 years old, thinking I would come running back to her, that I would do and say anything she wanted me to do. I never returned. I went to her sister who allowed me to move into their storage/laundry room.

I know that Mom’s family feared me going to live with my dad and brother, that it would send Mom into a tail spin. My dad was loving, but not a very responsible person. He was a hard worker, but couldn’t hold a job because he always had to be his own boss, he was evicted from homes often, yada, yada, yada. . .I loved spending time with Dad, but for short amounts of time; a great place to visit, but I didn’t want to live there. And, I wanted stability, I wanted a family to love and to love me, I wanted to be able to be a kid.  I spent so many nights wishing that there had been some huge mistake and that my aunt was actually my mom. But, it wasn’t true, it would never be true. And, even being mom-like was difficult for her, there was a wall. My mom accused her of stealing me away. She pressured my aunt to get me to visit. I didn’t want to because it was very hard on me to do so, but I did it to please my aunt. When I would visit, Mom would spend all her time asking questions about my brother, she was not at all interested in anything about me. I started to believe she only “missed” me living with her because I was her source of info about my brother, because she wanted me to be her caretaker and so she could get the child support and more money and food stamps.

I was kept at arm’s length by my aunt. Enough to not go to my dad, but never enough to feel like I had a mom in my aunt. My mom refused to give the child support she received from my dad (by this point it was being directed through Adult and Family Services) to my aunt and uncle. My uncle, who had bailed out my family many many times in the past, had enough. He would have talks with me that I needed to figure out how to get that child support to them or I would need to find another place to live. I said I would let AFS know that I no longer lived with my mom, so the child support would go directly to them. It would also mean that my mom would lose the extra bit of money and food stamps she got because I was supposedly part of her home. My aunt knew that she would then be making up that loss of money to my mom because our family was just that enabling. It was a stale-mate, but at least I didn’t have to go back to live with my mom. I just wanted a home. I just wanted a “normal” family to love me. I did everything I could to get them to love me.

I put myself through college, graduated and just a few months later ran into MC. We started dating, he loved me, actually he love-bombed me. I saw all my dreams of having my very own family coming true. After we married, I started to feel that nothing I could do was enough. I was loyal, I was loving, I put his dreams and ambitions ahead of everything else. I thought if I just did enough he would love me, think of me again like when we were dating.

Do you see the pattern? Do you see the problem? You CANNOT make people love you. They will or they won’t! That is THEIR CHOICE. I’ve stopped trying to make people love me (or, at least, I am working very hard to stop). If I do something for another, it cannot be because I want them to like me or love me, it must simply be because I want to do something loving toward them, because I want what is best and healthiest for them to live to their fullest potential. This does NOT include enabling poor choices!

When I was in college, just after my Dad died, I talked to my uncle. He knows he was hard on me in high school, he so wanted me to not turn out like my parents or be the enabler that my aunt and grandpa had been. And, he saw with my words and actions that I did not want to turn out like that either. He told me how proud he was of me and how much he thought of me like I was his daughter. I have felt so close to him ever since.

When Mom died, the wall between my aunt and I came down. She no longer felt like she had to protect my mom’s feelings. I will never be her daughter, but we are closer than ever before. I do love her and want what is best for her, no matter what our relationship was, is or will be.

TL: Thinking it through

As we sat in B’s office yesterday, we talked a lot about our birth families. I feel such anger, and yet sadness, about MC’s mom. I know she is lonely, but I also know she is just not a healthy person to be around. She doesn’t get it, see it, understand it and she likely never will. I am sad for MC. I am sad for our children who do not have a close grandparent relationship in their lives. I am sad for MC’s mom who we, including B, truly believe is mentally ill and imprisoned in the loneliness of that mental illness.

My family was screwed up too, my mom was also mentally ill (actually diagnosed as such, unlike MC’s mom who would never see such a doctor). But, I had love and compassion at least from my father. I know what it is like to be loved and to be able to show love, I have a sense and inkling of what that feels like and looks like.

Still, there were many in my life whose love and approval I tried so hard to win. And, this was another point we talked about yesterday. I spent so many years trying to get MC’s mom to love me, approve of me, accept me. When the fight happened about our child, I threw that all out the window realizing she never would. Just for the sake of being MC’s wife, there is no way she will ever love, approve of, or accept me. I think I was also trying to win MC’s love, approval and acceptance. Upon d-day, I realized I must stop trying to win love and approval. People in this world, including MC, can choose to love me or not.

Yesterday as we talked about all of this, we talked about how MC and I are each broken in our own ways, but how we are each healing. B sees in me the person that I used to be, including the spontaneous free-spirit part of me that had been hidden for so many years. And, I saw MC talking about, accepting and loving that part of me yesterday, a part I felt I needed to hide for so many years. And, here he was talking about how that is one of things he found attractive about me when we met. He said it with love, not anger, not resentment, but with love. I felt ok to be me. I felt safe to be me. I felt that MC can actually love me for me.

I don’t feel the walls between us like I did before. Somehow the walls of resentment and anger between us were not at all there yesterday, not from him and not from me. I feel like MC is now showing all of himself to me, being vulnerable and exposing the parts of his pain that he hid from for so many years. He is allowing me in, not some fantasy version of me, but just the real me. And, I am starting to feel like I can let him in again too.

I don’t know if any of that makes any sense to anyone out there. I am struggling to explain what brought those feelings to the forefront yesterday. I think this is at least a big part of it. Perhaps as time moves forward those moments will grow in duration and frequency. Perhaps one day those moments will be our life together. I think that is what brought the thought “we just might make it.”

MC: Cultural roots of self-pity and infidelity 

Why would an educated, upper-middle class young man or woman leave behind a family, a modern American life, potential success in work or academia, and perhaps more blessings, in order to go be part of a restrictive, repressive, ultra-conservative world such as ISIS?  Though I’m not Muslim and I despise ISIS, perhaps there is some element to their motivation that has contributed to their ability to make such horrific choices. I wonder if they have struggled all their lives with cultural contradictions, with a duality within themselves. I wonder if, on some level, it is a similar type of contradiction — the same type of duality — that drove me to self-pity and infidelity.

From a very early age, I was two people, not one.  I lived in two worlds.  Yes, basically I was bicultural.  However, unlike many bicultural Americans, the birth culture that caused me inner strife was not evident to the outside world.  In fact, for years, if not decades, it was not really evident to me.

It wasn’t race or ethnicity for me.  In fact, fifty percent of my blood is from a minority race among Americans.  The issues that raised for me were no more or less interesting or challenging than for any other American with minority racial or ethnic stock in their DNA.

In a way, the issue for me was religion.  But, mine was not a classic, simple, comprehensible case of my family being of a minority religion.  The short version of the story is that my mother grew up in a very conservative Christian family and the village where I grew up was overwhelming dominated by that same brand of super right-wing Christian conservatism.  I use the term “Victorianism” as a shorthand for its repressive social values.  My father was agnostic.

My mother had a troubled relationship with her birth family, and with almost everyone else in the world, for that matter.  As part of that troubled relationship, my mother outwardly rejected the religion.  Inwardly, however, that religion and its worldview was such a deeply-ingrained part of my mother that she didn’t even realize how much it guided her thinking and her behavior.  She frequently would say, “I don’t like that church.”  But, she believed everything the church taught and followed all of its social prescriptions. For the first eight years of my life, my mother sent me to that church and lauded me for taking part.

She never attended.  That’s a big part of why I stopped attending at age eight, when my mother finally gave me the choice.  I guess that was my first big contradiction:  being encouraged to live according to the religion while my parents went out of their way to outwardly reject the religion.

Throughout adolescence, my mother continued to insist that she hated “the church,” and, with no hint of irony, continued to insist we live according to the teachings of the church.  The church is very vocally opposed to tobacco and alcohol.  Narcotics were beyond even mentioning.  Anyone — related or unrelated, known or unknown, kind or heartless, intelligent or mindless, or any other variation — is to be shunned, shamed, avoided, pitied, patronized, and judged if they partake of such evils.

Sex, or anything vaguely associated with sex or thoughts of sexuality, is dirty, unnecessary, foul, unholy, and sick.  Even the thought of normal sexual traits, appearances, behaviors, or stereotypes should be hidden, avoided, hushed up, ignored, not acknowledged, and forgotten.  If any of these things — sex, tobacco, sexuality, alcohol, or drugs — appeared on television, in films, in literature or news, in overhead conversation, or elsewhere, my mother would sigh, grumble, fuss, frown, and generally make it clear that she did not approve.  Those things were forbidden.  How dare they inadvertently appear, so nonchalantly, in modern American culture — in our day-to-day lives?

All the while, my mother preached a constant mantra to me.  “Get educated.  You’re so smart.  Don’t be like these small-town people in this small town. Science is wonderful.  Be so worldly and sophisticated.”  She never once, to this day I believe, understood that her mantra about being educated and worldly was diametrically opposed to her frighteningly Victorian, provincial attitudes about sex, alcohol, and the like.  She was contradicting herself, and she neither knew nor cared.

I was struggling with inner conflict.  I only recently began to understand it.  Figuring out the norms, mores, and values that would guide me in life would have been hard enough — as it is for any young man — if I had received coherent, consistent signals from my parents.  Perhaps I would have lived according to the church had my parents done the same; had they not only condemned sex, alcohol, and the like, but also said “the church is good” and “live as the church teaches;” and had they said “date and marry within the church.”

Perhaps I would have bravely, or matter-of-factly, accepted that some people are not raised to hate and fear sex, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and progressive ideas, had my parents thought and acted that way too, had they not forced me to attend the church, had they critiqued the church’s teachings instead of just critiquing its members, and had they not aped the church’s views on life.

Instead, they filled me with contradictions.  Even as I write this, I’m starting to suspect that my mother’s vociferous hatred for the church stemmed not from distaste for its teachings, but only from bitterness or envy that she was not the church’s version of a paragon, the way she perhaps wished to be.

When I went off to college, never again living with my parents, I guess I assumed I was leaving the church behind.  I assumed I would matter-of-factly approach sex, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and all the other modern, secular, progressive elements of life just the way my peers did.  But, my new peers never had the Victorian, provincial background pounded into them the way I did.

I tried those forbidden fruits.  I went overboard with alcohol.  It took me a few years to learn that the cost of intoxication — making an ass of myself, potential legal trouble, physical illness, and lost time — was simply not worth it to me.  Now in my forties, I feel at ease about my relationship with alcohol.  I tried drugs, just a little.  It didn’t take me long to decide they really did not even interest me.

I remember that even during the years that I was experimenting with drugs and alcohol, I was very judgmental about other people who used those things.  The closer the person was to me, the more I felt threatened by and acted self-righteous about their substance use.  For example, I recall one particular occasion when TL went out with a girlfriend and drank too much. Not only was I threatened by fears of what she might have done without me, I was also judgmental about her intoxication. I also remember occasionally pressuring her to get intoxicated with me.  I suspect the effect of that pressure was to make TL feel afraid to overindulge with me.

In those earlier years, my alcohol use was excessive, even by average, modern American standards.  In reality, TL’s alcohol use was really very moderate — well within what modern Americans consider normal and healthy.

For years I’ve struggled to explain not only how I could be so hypocritical — judging TL’s drinking while simultaneously struggling with my own alcohol abuse — but also why.  To be clear, I have long since let go of that particular sick obsession.  Here’s how I think that hypocrisy happened.  Against the backdrop of my overall low self-esteem and my terrible habit of blaming others for my unhappiness, the two conflicting world views within my head — one provincial and one progressive — lead me to act out in two inappropriate and conflicting ways.

My progressive side said alcohol should be no big deal and that everyone was indulging.  That part of me said that I should keep overindulging and that I should pressure TL to overindulge with me.  Simultaneously, the provincial part of me recalled how I had learned from the church, the community, and the mother that alcohol was evil.  That part of me said to look down on TL for overindulging without me (that one time).  Hypocritical?  Yes.  That’s the point.

I tried to be two conflicting things, and I got them both wrong.  At least if I did not have that inner conflict, I could have worked to moderate.  I believe that if I was not burdened by the Victorian voice in my head, I would not have viewed alcohol as something I had to prove to myself I could do.  I would not have been able to draw on that Victorianism to fuel my self-righteousness.

I had a similar struggle with marijuana.  The difference was that once I tried marijuana, I found it entirely uninteresting.  I have never been tempted by it.  However, I did indulge in the same self-righteous judgmental ways toward TL and others when they nonchalantly expressed their more progressive views of marijuana.

TL’s use of marijuana before we dated was very limited, well within what most modern Americans consider to be normal.  Since we began dating, she has never used it.  She only speaks about it on rare occasions, in terms of current political happenings.  My marijuana use before we dated was more than hers and, yet, I judged her for her use of it and her more progressive attitude.

My struggle with tobacco was also characterized by contradiction.  Ultimately I became a closet smoker, just as I had become a closet porn user and adulterer.  With tobacco, for example, I should have just done what most people do:  choose to smoke, or choose not to smoke.  Instead, I took a third, more cowardly path:  I smoked, but tried to hide it from everyone.  Further, I spent much of my life looking down on people who smoke, acting self-righteously.

How did I get to such hypocritical behavior?  The final straw, as I’ve written before, was when I smoked alone at nights for months, hiding it from TL and everyone else, and not having the courage, integrity, or willpower to either quit or bring it out into the open. Why such contradictory behavior?  I struggle to understand it.

I think it was like this.  The urban, secular, modern part of me said I should be able to indulge.  What’s the big deal?  At exactly the same time, emanating from a more primal, childish part of my personality, the Victorian part of me imposed overwhelming shame, guilt, and self-doubt on me with regard to smoking.  The Victorian values were so deeply ingrained in me that their awakening was subconscious, almost Pavlovian.  Every time I even thought of smoking, Victorian me said to be ashamed and afraid — to hide it. Progressive me was too cowardly to resist the subconscious Victorian me.  And, by the time I thought of just quitting smoking, I was already physiologically hooked.

There are a very few people, like TL, who can have one or more cigarettes casually and then forget about smoking for months or longer, without physiological struggle.  My body is simply not like that.  So, really I should not smoke.  I don’t now.  It’s still a temptation sometimes.  But, I have been away from it for three good years.

More troubling is the way I think about it.  If TL or someone else smokes, I want very much to view it without judgment, fear, jealousy, or self-righteousness.  The same applies to marijuana.  Honestly, that still requires conscious effort on my part, to relax and view it without judging it.  In the classic psychological sense, these are triggers for me.  They trigger the risk of self-pity and self-righteousness.

Did you read my post about the Train Wreck movie?  Promiscuity is a trigger for me.  So is smoking and marijuana.  I want so much to be more modern, adult, and normal about these issues.  So far, I can only do so by employing the good mental health strategies I’ve been practicing.  If I ever smoke again, even once, I have to tell TL about it.  I have to not hide it.

From reading this blog, you know about my long struggle with sex, porn, masturbation, and adultery.  I see a connection between that struggle and my inner struggle pitting Victorian me again progressive me.  Sure, there were other problems and causes:  low self-esteem, failure to take responsibility, and self-pity.  Misogyny played a role too.  I was consumed by the idea that a man should have a long sexual track record and a woman should be chaste.  I suspect that, at least in part, I became obsessed with that idea because of my inner cultural dichotomy.

If my worldview was consistently progressive, I might have accepted that a spouse’s sexual history had no bearing on the present relationship.  There should have been no temptation to compare myself to TL or to other men sexually.

On the other hand, if my worldview was consistently Victorian, I would have found a spouse who really shared that worldview.

But, my worldview was conflicting.  I associated with progressive people in a progressive milieu, and I strived to be progressive.  But, it wasn’t entirely me.  I was deceiving myself.  I was trying so hard not to acknowledge Victorian me that I succeeded in forgetting it existed.  But, it rose up like a demon unchained, possessed me, and drove me to lash out at TL in a cruel, deceptive series of outbursts, of self-pity and of self-righteousness.  I criticized TL intensely, frequently, and sometimes insidiously about her sexual history, even while I attempted to show her only progressive me.  Victorian me leapt out, enveloped progressive me, and took over.  The self-righteousness was coupled with revenge seeking.  Victorian me said that men should be sexually experienced and women should not.  So, Victorian me vowed to correct the perceived imbalance, by relentlessly trying to grow my own sexual track record — love, morals, integrity, safety, and reason be damned.

You know my story.  My point is that what ended up destroying TL, the only person I really love, began as an inner struggle against myself.  I thought I was a progressive person with a progressive life.  In fact, my Victorian side had a stranglehold on me.  I didn’t think it would.  My parents had overtly told me to be modern and educated.  But, their unspoken teachings, their belief in the Victorian values, saturated my mind.  Victorian me could not handle what progressive me wanted.  I succumbed to my duality, not by joining an extremist group, but by behaving as an extremist with regard to sex, women, tobacco, and progressive ways of life.

These kids that leave America and go off to Syria to fight for ISIS, succumbed to their duality.  They were never entirely comfortable with modern American behaviors regarding sex and the role of women, for example. Combine that with low self-esteem and the seductive preaching that says their misfortune was not their fault — rather, it was the fault of another culture or a set of policies — and they are tempted to give up the struggle to accept progressiveness.  It’s easier to just say that progressiveness is evil, to reject it, and to embrace Victorian (or fundamentalist) values.

I have definitively turned my back on the idea of living a Victorian life, with a Victorian wife.  One of my many problems before D-day was succumbing to my hidden discomfort with that decision.  The child part of my personality wanted the security blanket of Victorian views, wanted the unattainable reality of living in both worlds.  So, it is the adult part of my personality that must remind me, whenever tempted by self-pity or self-righteousness, that I chose the progressive path.  I must be consistent in following through on my chosen path.

MC: “I will never again be a liar.”

You’ve read my previous entry, about how I let my insecurities about my masculinity lead me to smoking.  I’ve worked very, very hard — and successfully — to overcome those insecurities, and to stop smoking, cheating, using porn, flirting, masturbating, and paying for sex.  I’ve overcome alcohol and food challenges too.  Please understand that I get that there’s more to it than that.  I get that lying is a distinct and frightening problem, regardless of overcoming those other challenges.

Here’s how I’ve worked to stop lying.  First, I recognize that lying was one of my many distinct flaws as a husband, son, and human being.  I suspect I subconsciously learned at an early age that lying was “normal” and that people can say one thing while thinking or doing another.  My mother did that often.  She would exaggerate stories to make herself or her family look better, more deserving, more needy, more put-upon, or whatever she found it convenient to portray at the moment.  In some cases, she invented lies from whole-cloth, to “save face,” avoid conflict, or manipulate people or situations. I knew that was wrong.  What I didn’t know is that I was beginning to emulate my mother’s dishonesty, more and more, without even realizing how much I was doing it.

I’ve struggled with my mother’s influence all my life.  I’ve struggled with the bad example of how to view the world that she taught me, her bad habits she modeled for me, the guilt and verbal abuse she used to control me, the games she played to manipulate me, and the anger with which she attacked me.  Part of my work on self-healing and reconciliation has been to break free from her influence.

I now defend TL and my kids with strength in the face of my mother’s attacks.  I now don’t succumb to my mother’s guilt trips or her temper tantrums.  I also no longer view the world as she does.  I’m leaving behind her negative view of the world.  I’m happily leaving behind her sick manner of exaggerating, hiding the truth, telling half-truths, and lying.  I want to be better than that.  I want be happier than that.

Second, I have really embraced the journey  toward being genuine.  I’ve found great freedom in it.  Now, when I walk around — be it at work, at scouting events with my kids, or anywhere — I can calm the voices of self-doubt in my head.  Instead of wondering what people might think of me or what might happen, I relax in the knowledge that I am speaking my mind honesty, I am behaving honestly in the best interests of my marriage, my family, and myself.  Other people’s opinions of me no longer matter so much anymore.  “Other people” includes my mother, bosses (within reason), colleagues, strangers, and many others.  It proves to me that being honest feels better — safer, easier in the long run — than lying.

Third, more than anything else, I want to be closer to TL. I want a gentle, honest, safe, kind, and loving relationship with TL.  The smoking lie was my final reminder that lies achieve the opposite of that. If I ever lie again, TL will surely be gone.  I want to be closer to TL.  I want to be an honest man.  Even if TL leaves me or dies before I do, I want to be an honest man.

Fourth, when doing anything, I ask myself, “Is this something I want to hide, from TL or anyone else?”  If the answer is anything other than “no, I’m proud of my behavior,” I stop that behavior before it starts.

Yes, I failed.  Yes, I lied about smoking.  I will never lie again.  I’ve learned that being honest about sex is not enough.  I must be honest about everything.  Even something as small as a broken glass in the kitchen or a beer alone in my hotel room requires complete and immediate honesty with TL.

I lied about smoking.

I am working within myself, with my counselor and with God to remain an honest man.

I don’t want to lie.  I don’t need to lie.  Lying hurts me and those I love.  I will never again be a liar.

TL: “My friend was gone.”

It is interesting as we get to the last years of our story how different MC viewed his “normal” life with me versus how I viewed our life together.

A year after we arrived, even my friendship with MC had all but disappeared. I made a couple good friends, joined the PTO Executive Committee, became involved as a classroom parent, started exercising with 3 other moms in a workout group with a trainer, and focused on the kids and myself. I started receiving kudos for my work with the PTO. I told MC, hoping I was telling my friend, he laughed at the compliments. I was hurt deeply by this.

The winter time in country had some skiing options not too far away. The kids loved it! It was the one physical activity that they were happy and excited to do and they were damn good at it too. I guess if you start that young, you don’t have far to fall. I took the kids to the mountain with a girlfriend and her kids for three nights. It was a lovely time. MC had to work and could not join us. We would go from time-to-time as a family after that trip. We still had MC with us on weekends, but many weekends he was “on call” at his office and told us he was not allowed to leave our area.

That summer we were supposed to take a trip to the US to see family, his first and then mine. A day before we left, I got a call from home. My mom had died of a heart attack. I ended up going to my family straight away, while MC took the kids to see his family and then joined me a few days later. After her funeral, I spent the trip with my cousin sorting through Mom’s things, selling what I could, keeping some family heirlooms and closing up any accounts she had. My sibling came only for the funeral, he had not spoken to Mom in years. I understood.

I also went to see my Ob/Gyn, the one that delivered YC. Since the birth of YC, I had horrible cycles. TMI here, but I had copious amounts of bleeding and pain that rivaled that of the kidney stone. My doctor suggested a supra cervical hysterectomy. We had to leave for overseas soon, so he didn’t take the full cervix, but quite a bit of it. Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have insisted we stayed in the US a few weeks longer and had the full cervix removed.  MC knew what he was doing, he had to have known the risks to me, but he was more worried about getting back to work than anything else, he could have supported me staying an extra few weeks to heal so the whole cervix could be removed. He did not support that idea and, thinking my risk was low, I agreed to the less invasive surgery, leaving a small bit of the cervix. The doctor performed the surgery removing my uterus. He found that I had something called adenomyosis. I have never regretted that surgery for a second. No more anemia, no more horrible cycles, it was a HUGE relief!

We went back overseas. I thought the death of my mom would give me a sense of closure. In many ways it did, but I found that something about both my parents having died just was harder on me than I realized it would be. I felt alone in the world. I was sad. I was sad that my mom missed seeing her grand babies one more time by only a few days. I was sad that my kids would never see her again. I was sad that I would never again see a spark of love in my mom’s eyes when she was with her grand babies. I tried to talk to MC about my thoughts and feelings. He just didn’t have time for me. I went to coffee with a good friend a few weeks after we got back. She asked me how I was doing. I told her MC is always working and I am much sadder about my mom dying than I ever thought I would be. I started crying. She had never seen me cry before. I was usually the person with a smile on her face for everyone. I think she was a bit taken aback. She told me I could talk to her anytime, that men just “don’t get it” and I agreed.

My birthday rolled around and MC was not going in as early as normal. YC’s school was on his way to work. So, I thought he was going in late, as a surprise to me, so I would have a break from driving YC to school on my birthday. It turns out, he was just running late (something MC never did). Upon realizing he wasn’t going to take YC, I asked him to take YC to school on his way. I had seen his co-worker bring their child to school many times for his wife. MC refused. Even five more minutes onto his schedule was unacceptable and he had neither the time, nor intention of taking our child to school. I was very upset. It had become exceptionally clear that we were not a priority to him, I was not a priority to him in any way, shape or form. This just wasn’t working anymore. My friend was gone.

I threw myself into PTO work. The next ski season, MC would join us for a week at the mountain. MC loved to ski and it was an activity the kids adored as well. We started going skiing on those weekends MC did not have to be available for work. I then started planning our next trip back to the US. MC would only be able to join us for 3 weeks. I wanted more time back home. Most of our friends were also leaving for the summer. He told me he really did not want me to go without him, he would like me to just wait until he could go and then we would all go together. I asked him “Why?” He would always say he loves having the kids and I around. I called bullshit. I told him we were clearly a low priority to him and with us gone, he could go to the office and exercise as much as his heart desired, we wouldn’t be in his way, he should enjoy that. I made arrangements to go to the US three weeks before MC. At the same time, we were talking about his next job, a job that did not include family members, a job that would have the kids and I back home for a whole year. For the first time ever, I was receptive to the idea. In fact, a part of me was thinking, maybe the kids I and will just stay there permanently.

And, now, I think we are back to where we started our story from my perspective.

TL: “Struggle to understand this idea of compartmentalization”

First, I do want to reiterate again that my use of the term “shit hole” to describe a place says far more about my state-of-mind at the time than the actual place. Just to be clear, I have been all over this world and experienced some pretty fucking fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experiences, largely in places that are  less developed or practically undeveloped. Sometimes, yes, I do get homesick. But, overall, these overseas experiences were very meaningful and special. My children have seen amazing diversity and resilience, as well as poverty and human struggles in a way living back home would never have given. I think this has given them a sense of compassion and empathy for the struggles of others that Mindless clearly never had and, frankly, I too needed to confront.

Though we are focusing largely on the negatives here, there were so many positive experiences along the way. Part of the struggle I am confronting is that I thought those shared experiences meant something special to not just me, but to us as a couple. And, I am starting to admit again that no matter what Mindless did or did not do in his “double life,” those experiences did, in fact, mean something to me, just not in the way I thought. Mindless insists those experiences were meaningful to him and his idea of us too. I struggle to understand this idea of compartmentalization that he keeps talking about. It is just not the way my mind works.

With that being said, back to our story.

Due to my difficult pregnancy, our whole family was sent home (truly HOME this time) at the beginning of the third trimester. AP2/the maid wanted us to take her with us. It was not possible to do, thank goodness! When we got home to America, my Mom was so very happy to see us.

My Mom was a very sick woman, but boy did she want to shower love and attention on her grandchildren. We, with the backing of my extended family, did not allow her to watch our oldest son (OS) alone. She was very sick, still on many meds and couldn’t drive, etc. But, she could visit for a few hours here and there (small doses really were best). Seeing her visit with her grandchildren was the only time in many years I had seen a spark of love and caring for anything or anyone outside of herself. Somehow, I found comfort in that.

I had to stay in the hospital for almost a week due to hemorrhaging and an unexplained infection. Our baby was perfect, so they wouldn’t allow the baby to stay as an inpatient, though the baby was allowed to stay. Mindless stayed at the hospital with us to help with the baby, since the nurses were not allowed to do so. OS stayed with my extended family for that week. We were able to be home for another six weeks after the baby was born before going off to MC’s latest job – this time a job in the US, but still not so close to “home.”

Self-pity and how I prevent it

First, self-pity, stemming from jealousy and comparing myself to others, was my fundamental problem. Before D-day, if I told myself to avoid porn or available women, sooner or later I forgot my commitment to avoid them, lost my resolve, and wandered back to them.

I’ll digress briefly to explain two parts of my thinking that could seem contradictory if oversimplified.  On one hand, every time I cheated I arrived at that action through a series of conscious decisions. I said to myself, “I deserve these experiences.” I did not say to myself, “I did not mean to cheat.” On the other hand, there were two brief moments when I told myself I would stop cheating.  One was after my first affair with an AP.  The other was after we moved away from a land full of prostitutes.  Each of these two times, I briefly said to myself, “I will stop doing that.”  When I stepped away from the time and place of those particular sins, I got a little bit fuller perspective on the costs. Each time, however, in the months that followed, in the face of my self-pity, I again made a series of conscious and selfish decisions that set me on a path toward cheating.

My failure was due to focusing on the wrong thing.  Porn and sex were symptoms for me. Self-pity was the disease.  Now I have identified it, I understand its dangers, and I focus on overcoming it.

Second, I should identify my vulnerabilities.  What things make me feel self-pity?  It seems like the last time I was drawn in by self-pity I had seen, read, or heard something from a magazine, movie, television show, video, or other people’s conversation that tempted me to compare my pre-marital sexual history to that of other people.  That’s usually, if not always, how it happened.  Someone — be it a real person in my life, or even a person on television — said something that reminded me that I had been unhappy about my pre-marital sex life.

I can’t prevent that from happening.  I can, however, control my reaction to it.  The easiest and most successful strategy I have used in that regard is basically to change the channel in my mind.  Instead of repeating to myself how much I wished my pre-marital sex life had been better,  I can go talk to my wife, kids, or just about anyone about something else, something positive, or at least something unrelated.  That helps.  The last time I remember that I really struggled with this self-pity was a time when I was alone for several hours, not working, not exercising, and not socializing.  Re-directing my thoughts can help with that.

Third, of course I need to eliminate the source of the self-pity:  my previous view that God owed me something.  I need to remind myself that the past is the past, the present could pass me by if I fail to act, and the future can only be better if I make it better.

Fourth, counting my blessings is a reminder that I have a lot to lose by focusing on self-pity.  Now I remember to tell myself, when tempted by self-pity, that I am very lucky to have my wife and kids and that I could lose them by dwelling on self-pity.

Fifth, I need new ways of feeling OK about myself.  Before D-day I struggled to find reasons to feel happy about myself.  I thought maybe I would like myself if I had been more successful sexually as a single man.  That thinking led to disaster.  I thought I might like myself if other people liked or admired me.  That was hit-and-miss and quite subjective.  I thought I might like myself if I got promotions or kudos at work.  That was also hit-and-miss and it led to my wife feeling I chose my work instead of her. I thought I might like myself if I continued to improve my health and fitness.  That does help a little.  But, it seems dangerous to have so many self-esteem eggs in that one basket.

Since D-day, I’ve tried to broaden my ways of finding something good in myself.  I can now also try to like myself for successes — however small — in terms of integrity, self-discovery, doing good deeds for my wife and kids, good ideas about society, insightful observations, and taking care of my family. It does help to have more reasons to like myself.

I’m not sure that any one of these reasons, by itself, would be a healthy place to gamble my entire self-esteem.  But, it’s certainly healthier than having the majority of my self-esteem depend only on my view of my sexual history, my job, my popularity, and fitness, the way it did before D-day.  So now if I start feeling low about myself on account of my pre-marital sexual history, a disappointment at work, or whatever, I can balance that out by recalling something better about myself in other areas such as, for example, integrity, insight, support to family, or other things.

Sixth, I now have permission from my first counselor, Phil, to stop comparing my sexual history to that of others.  He said it was a sick obsession.  I know this requires some explanation.  Before D-day TL had told me that it was sick and wrong for me to compare my sexual history to hers or anyone else’s.  Even if I did, it’s nothing that should have made me feel bad.  I should not have used it as a measure of my self-esteem.  I suspected she was right.  But, another part of me was afraid she was wrong about that.  After all, television, movies, literature, peers, celebrities, and so many other sources said or did things that made me think a man should measure his self-worth by his sexual conquests.

After D-day, we talked with Phil about how I compared my sexual history to TL’s and became mired in jealousy, self-pity, and feelings of inferiority.  Phil quickly and matter-of-factly said, “That’s sick.  That’s a sick obsession.”  To me, that was a watershed moment, an important lesson, and a touchstone I can continue to use.  Phil’s not a genius and I’m not an idiot.  But, somehow, Phil being a credentialed professional and a disinterested third-party gave me great faith in those words when he said them.  I had wanted, for years, to believe those words.  I was grateful to hear them from someone who was male, trained as a counselor, and not personally related to our situation.  The sick obsessions were the focus of my self-pity.  Mastering the sick obsessions was the key to mastering the self-pity.  Being confident that they were just sick obsessions helped, a lot.

Seventh, I’m trying to learn to like myself.  One of the deeper reasons for the sick obsessions and the self-esteem crisis was that I didn’t really like myself in some ways.  Since I was a child I did not like myself.  I liked some things about myself and some things about life.  But, there were a few nagging things I did not like.  I’ve been working on learning to be OK with myself.  That includes focusing on the things I do like, changing the things I can change, and learning new ways to view the things I did not like.  This approach helps me stop comparing myself to others and stop succumbing to jealousy.

A final useful strategy to stop comparing myself to others and thus stop feeling self-pity is to look at where I learned that behavior in the first place.  I learned it from my mother.  She still does those things.  Before D-day and therapy, I didn’t even realize that I had internalized those behaviors that are so frustrating in my mother.  She’s still unhappy, largely due to those behaviors.  Looking at her bad example in that light is a frightening reminder that I can and must reject self-pity.

TL: “The visit.”

Some back ground on MC’s Mom, I’m sure he will give more, but let me give you my perspective.

MC’s mother rarely has anything nice to say about women. She bases many of her opinions of people on stereotypes. In her view, and words, most women are stupid and silly. She is a fantastic baker and gardner, but only sees the negative in herself and others. She puts herself down, for being a woman, constantly. The one type of woman she envisioned as perfect for MC, and the only type she deemed acceptable, was a woman: from the Asian continent; who was demure, unassuming and plain; whose family was wealthy; who went to the best schools; and most importantly would be subservient to her husband and his family in all matters.  She gives her and her husband the exact same haircut, she wears men’s clothes, she never wears make-up, which is fine in and of itself, but when combined with the other actions and statements through the years, it paints a fuller picture. Imagine her horror when MC decided to marry a woman who was from a poor, suburban, liberal Jewish family. You would think the fact that I put myself through college would have been a plus, but to her it was an embarrassment. To say she was not pleased with me as choice for wife is a HUGE understatement. And, heaven forbid we breed.

For the first half of our marriage, I bit my tongue and let her walk all over me, including rearranging our home without my or MC’s permission, criticizing my cooking, cleaning and whatever else she could find. I would only voice an opinion if it was one I believed she also held. I quickly found out that if it came from me, it was wrong, wrong, wrong. For example, I knew she hated beards. MC was growing one and I mentioned that I did not like it. This is when she told me that such an opinion was “stepping over the line as a wife.”

From the day we married, she criticized my cleaning, even though both MC and I worked full-time. When she came to visit us while MC was in grad-school and I was working 70 hours/week to support us and put him through school, she again was critical of my housecleaning. Never mind that MC was home far more than I was home. Overseas, we often had a housekeeper. The house was cleaned top to bottom every day. MC’s parents visited. And, she still criticized the standard of cleanliness.

Before I was 30 she would constantly tell MC we were too young for kids. When I hit 30 it was all about how I was too old for having children. Once we had kids, she would criticize my parenting as if MC had no say in it. She was proud of keeping MC in a bubble as a child and felt it was the proper way to parent. Both MC and I disagreed wholeheartedly, but kept our mouths shut.

We visited when our oldest was a toddler. We asked if we could childproof one room of the house, to have a safe place for our child to hang-out. Childproofing is not how she does things. We told them we would get a hotel, she insisted we stay with them because it would “look bad to the family.” We were not allowed to get our own glass of water or snack, nor get one for our child. We were not allowed to get together with old friends or other family members on our own. Everything had to go through her. She had many glass, ceramic knick-knacks throughout the house and was constantly telling our child “no” and telling us we needed to spank him, if we didn’t she would. When she started coming down on our child, I broke. Don’t mess with me when it comes to my children.  I told her that her house was not meant for a toddler and that we needed to move to a hotel. Oh boy, you would think I launched a nuclear war. She went off big time into one of her temper tantrums. This time, I responded. In fact, I did not hold back at all. MC didn’t say a word except that it was “time for us to leave.” All through the years, I kept hoping that MC would step in at some point and tell her to “knock it off.” But, he did not. That is how it was before D-day.

This visit just after d-day, clearly I was not in good shape when we arrived in town. We did stay at a hotel, but visited for the sake of our kids seeing their grandparents, a supervised visit! MC stood by my side every second, he held my hand in front of her, and gently and affectionately caressed my arm or back in front of her. He stood up for me and the kids when she started to go off the deep-end. He did so without backing down, while remaining calm and firm throughout. Oh my, I had never seen him like this with her. I was so proud of him, so very proud of him. And, it felt good, so good. And, you know what, I really do think she started treating him more like an adult, instead of a child, after that visit. We do limit our visits and contact. But, they are the only grandparents alive and our kids do love them (at least with the limited exposure).

Then we left the US to go back overseas.

Don’t be a victim

One attitude I had prior to D-day that led me to a lot of trouble was the tendency to always paint myself as a victim.  This was a self-centered and childish tendency to see the world as all about me.  It also hurt me, by giving me an excuse not to try to improve myself and my lot, physically, mentally, emotionally, morally, as a husband, and as a father.  It led me to blame others, including God or fate, for my happiness or lack thereof, rather than work toward happiness. Ultimately, it led me to cheat, lie, lead a double-life, and lose all touch with my wife, kids, and what really matters to me in life.

For example, my mentally-ill mother taught me that some people are just born more athletic or stronger and others are born smarter and more academic. She taught me to believe that if you were not born with those natural abilities, there was nothing you could ever do about it.  Untrue.  In both sports and academics, despite some genetic inheritance, most of what leads to success is dedication, motivation, practice, an open-minded quest for knowledge, discipline, and persistence.  No Olympian just lazed his way to victory on the back of genetic gifts without hard work.  No inventor ever just visualized a new technique or device without building on years of study and thought.  But, I subconsciously bought into my mother’s excuses and blaming fate.  I essentially told myself I was not a natural athlete.  So, I set myself years behind physically by failing to try.  I essentially told myself I was naturally smart.  So, I set myself behind academically by failing to work, assuming academic success would just appear due to my natural intelligence.  Crap.

Here’s another example. As an adolescent I told myself some guys just naturally get girls and others don’t.  Never mind about hygiene, confidence, humor and approachability, taking care of yourself, being patient, and enjoying socializing without insisting it end in sexual conquest.  I thought some guys just go to a club with a bad attitude and only thinking of sexual conquest and invariably go home with a girl. I never considered that maybe they put a whole lot more effort into it than that.  I never considered that maybe they weren’t at the club only for an obsessive quest to get laid.  So, I got very angry at myself and at God or fate when I sought to get laid and failed, without having the right preparation and the right attitude.  And, I gave up quickly and easily.

The common theme here is that I didn’t see myself as an actor choosing my destiny and being responsible for my success or failure.  I saw my successes and failures as gifts or curses from God or fate.  I got angry instead of getting a plan.  I was the victim, not the person responsible for my happiness or lack thereof.

As the victim, I didn’t think about the pain I would cause others by cheating and lying.  I thought, woe is me, I deserve more sex and self-validation, even if I have to be evil to get it.  As the victim, I wallowed in self-pity, believing my pain, real or imagined, was more important than the consequences I was inflicting on my wife and others.

The only good news out of this is that I have learned one measure of my progress in R and self-healing.  Do I want to be the victim?  Am I tempted by self-pity?  If so, I’m not working on R, I’m working against it.  Do I want to take responsibility to help myself and my wife?  If so, I’m at least headed in the right direction.

If I wallow around in victimhood, blaming old partners, parents, ailments, or whatever for my condition, there is no way I can help my BW.  If I do that, my wife could do a whole lot better without me.

When I talk to God now, I’m also talking to myself.  God, give me the strength to take responsibility for my life and to make the best of it, for me and for my loved ones.