Tag Archives: love

It bears repeating

I don’t like the idea of love being conditional. In my view, that is cheater think. It is exactly what MindlessCraft believed as he rationalized and excused the irrational. If only it was so easy for us betrayed to turn on and off our love like some water spigot. It is not, which is why I think it is so important to understand that love is one thing, but safety is another. In my view, staying in the marriage is conditional. Love and safety are not.

ETA:

So, when I talk of “love,” I define it as “wanting the best” for my partner, my parent, my child, my sibling, etc. What does this mean exactly? It means wanting this person to have the healthiest life possible, living to their fullest potential in both a healthy and loving way.

I think of my mother. I had anger toward her. I couldn’t have her as a part of my day-to-day life as she was not safe for me emotionally. But, I loved her. I always wanted her to be healthy and to have the tools within herself to live to her fullest potential in a healthy and loving way. My love for her was not conditioned upon anything, it just was. The fact that she was not safe for me did not turn my love off for her. The fact that I loved her did not turn off my need for my own safety. Love and safety were separate, independent variables. Having her in my day-to-day life was conditioned upon maintaining my safety, regardless of my love for her.

I get very scared, especially for victims of domestic violence who have been conditioned to believe in this “love is conditional” crap, when we make such declarations. Love is wanting what is best for the other. Enabling abusive behavior is not healthy and has nothing to do with love. So, instead of talking about love being conditional, I think we should talk about staying in the relationship as being conditional. And, so, this is what I mean by saying, “staying in the marriage is conditional. Love and safety are not.”

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The dog story

MC and I were talking last night and he reminded me of something that we thought would be worth sharing. He’s got a lot on his plate this week, so I thought I would share it as it fits our current theme. . .

Before we had children, while living overseas, we took in an abused dog. She was beautiful, so loving to us and instinctively protective. She had it in her genes to be a guard dog, although all we wanted was her to be a member of our family and a running companion. She could only hang out with people who themselves had dogs. She LOVED other dogs and was therefore loving and friendly to their people. For those without dogs, she did not like them AT ALL.

When we had our first child, I was nervous. But, she was very loving and gentle near the baby. When our oldest was a toddler he ran up to our girl, falling into a big hug with her. She snapped at him and barely broke the skin, but did break the skin. We tried to find her a new home, but couldn’t. We called animal rescue organizations back in the US, telling them we would fly her to them, if they would take her. They wouldn’t. Finally, we decided to take her to the vet to put her down. We loved her so very much, but we thought she wasn’t safe for our child at that point.

Do you see where this is going? Just because you love someone doesn’t mean they are safe for you and that you can keep them in your life. So, while the definition of love is very important to our reconciliation, so is the idea of safety. Love is one thing. Safety is another.

Now, just so you know the end of the dog story. . .

We got our girl to the vet and he found she was infested with something similar to yet-to-be hatched from her skin botflies. No wonder the girl was cranky at being hugged. We got her all fixed-up and she came home to us to live a long and happy life with our growing family, never to snap at our family again. She died a few months before d-day. We still miss her.

A parting thought…It is true, MC was never infested with botfly larvae. And, there were certainly moments I wanted to put him down (ha!). The reality is that in addition to reprioritizing his values and his life; learning to think outside of himself; and learning to love truly, as opposed to only loving on a quid-pro-quo basis; MC also had to focus on becoming a safe partner and providing mechanisms of safety not only to protect me and the kids if I chose to attempt reconciliation with him, but even if I chose to divorce.

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.

Let’s talk about love

Ok, so as you know from my previous post, we had a conversation with Wayfarer and some IHG staff about love’s place in marriage and reconciliation.

The thing is that we do think it is a worthwhile conversation to have. We’ve thought a lot about a “healthy” definition of love, but we have never before encountered the idea that “love is beside the point.”

We would love to talk about that with our readers. We want to hear your thoughts. We will give our current thinking to these questions below, after asking you the questions, so as to not influence your thought process on these ideas.

What is a healthy definition of love?

Is a healthy definition of love unhealthy to the marriage and/or process of reconciliation?

Is “love beside the point?”

Form your thoughts, then read our answers below if you like. Regardless of our thoughts, we hope you will share yours!

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Our thoughts on those questions:

What is a healthy definition of love?

If you’ve been a reader for a while, you’ve probably read several pieces from MC talking about his fucked-up definition of love prior to d-day, that it was all about getting and not at all about giving. For me, it was the idea that if I am loving enough, do enough, that people will love me in return. Both of these ideas were unhealthy.

First, “the key to a healthy marriage is enjoying your mate and learning to love them rather then needing them to love you.” And, second:

“. . .relationships based on romanticism are immature and unrealistic. Indeed, they contain intense emotions, but they are not about mature, lasting love. Instead they are based on wanting what I don’t have and the sacrifices I’m willing to make to get what I want. They are not based on what’s in the best interest of another; they are based on what I believe I need in order to be happy. In the end, this romanticism is incredibly and unequivocally selfish.

While romanticism is based on wanting what you don’t have, marriage is based on having what you don’t always want. There always comes a point in marital relationships where we are wounded or disappointed by our mate, and it’s not until that moment that we have the opportunity to really love another.

Until that moment, love is based on the belief that you can complete me; being with you will result in happiness and fulfillment for me. But after that moment, when hope is crushed and I’ve abandoned my illusion that you are what I need, then my love (if I’m able to love) becomes something more mature and divine. It’s the opportunity for my love to become less about me and what I want, and more about truly choosing the other person. . .

.  . .Truly loving another is the most difficult thing we can do, and it’s completely counter-cultural, but with practice over time it will lead to a more fulfilling relationship than you’ve probably ever known. That being said, truly loving your spouse does not mean you have to subject yourself to situations or relationships that are not safe. Truly loving your spouse does not include enabling poor choices or remaining in codependent situations.”

These ideas by Rick Reynolds (surprise, surprise) were truly eye-opening to us for our marriage and it really got down to the brass tacks of the insufficiencies in each of our pre d-day views of love.

From this, we developed the idea about what we are working towards when we talk about love:

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

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

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

So, for us, love is not transactional, we find that idea personally unhealthy and part of the fucked-up thinking of our pre d-day life. We are working to change all manner of fucked-up thinking in ourselves and in our marriage.

Is a healthy definition of love unhealthy to the marriage and/or process of reconciliation?

Our previous unhealthy views of love were unhealthy for us and for our marriage. We find it difficult to believe that a personal healthier view of love is harmful to our marriage or reconciliation. It is a fundamental shift in how we view love for and with each other, one that has been a guiding star on our journey.

Is “love beside the point?”

Our answer to that question is that love is not beside the point. It is, however, a separate, important and relevant point. Ethics, respect and treating others with dignity are the stalwarts of human decency. That needs to be a foundational element in healthy human relations, something MC has had to and continues to do a lot of work on! Love is separate from, but certainly complementary to, that truth. The two are not dependent upon each other, but they are also not mutually exclusive.

MC: Love and ethics

Blaming the cheater’s past rather than his current character and world view is inappropriate.  To be precise, family of origin issues, or other psychological issues may explain, in part or in whole, the cheater’s thinking, but they can not and should not excuse his choices and behavior.  They were deliberate, conscious choices, and there is no excuse.

Ethics are important.  I think of it as honor, humility, and commitment to spiritual principles.  Ethics is a good shorthand.  Yes, I lacked ethics when I cheated.  I’ve been working hard to develop myself in that way.  Before D-day, I was unethical and dishonorable.  I thought of myself rather than of my duty to my wife, children, or God.  I thought of selfish gain rather than behaving with integrity.  I measured myself by childish notions of masculinity rather than taking pride in acting with integrity.

After D-day, I learned and practiced integrity, ethics, honor, and spirituality.  I don’t mean I’ve perfected it.  Like physical and mental health, moral health is a never-ending quest.  I used to go to the gym often, for physical health.  Now I also turn to ethical and religious teachings regularly, for moral health.  I know that might sound simplistic.  I’m neither a religious fundamentalist nor an esoteric New-age freak.  I use the terms spirituality and morality here because there are really no other simple ways to describe it in our language.

Maybe there are some people who can improve their motivations and behavior purely through ethics, without empathy, compassion, and love.  More power to them.  I find that focusing on empathy, compassion, and love, as well as integrity and morality, is very helpful.

For me personally, the definition of love is crucial.  I suspect other cheaters will find it helpful.  I could be wrong.  But, learning that love is selfless, not transactional, was a watershed discovery for me.  It actually tied directly into thoughts about ethics.  How can you not make your wife’s safety, feelings, and honor a top priority if you truly love her?  How can you not make her less important than yourself if you only view love as transactional?

I learned to change my world view for the better.  I hope, but don’t demand, that other cheaters might be able to learn something from my experience.  I also hope that other victims of cheating can see that there is at least one way, probably more, that cheaters can reform, and that there are also many ways a cheater can fail to reform or feign reformation.

Let’s be clear.  A cheater’s understanding of love is absolutely not a fail safe protection against abuse.  There may be no fail safe protection at all.  But, my experience is that a proper view of love, the view I learned from Rick Reynolds, is very helpful to the marriage.  And, even if the marriage must end in divorce, a new understanding of love can benefit both the cheater and the victim.

MC: “Counting my blessings.”

I learned a lot from Affair Recovery.  I learned that love is an active choice, not something you passively fall into or fall out of.

I learned that my spouse does not exist to meet my needs.  That’s not her purpose, nor is it the basis of a healthy relationship.  It’s not the reason anyone should choose anyone else as a mate.  I should choose to love her — or not — regardless of my needs.

I started to work on learning empathy.  In one exercise I made a list of 20 things that would now be triggers for TL — things I had destroyed for TL — places I had been with APs, songs from the time I was cheating, particular sex acts, and many other things that were now frightening or repulsive to TL due to my betrayal.

I can’t begin to describe the sadness I felt reading that list out loud to TL and our AR group.  I often say it must be what it feels like if you had a priceless, breakable family heirloom and you had pissed on it, broken it, and hidden it in the trash.  Or, maybe it’s like if you had been trusted to protect the last of a dying species and instead you had killed it, through some combination of self-centered neglect and pathological rage.

In addition to Rick’s exercises, chapters, and lectures, I appreciated that the program gave TL and I a structure for spending lots of time together, focused on rebuilding our relationship.  In that regard, this blog of ours is the successor to Affair Recovery for TL and me.

During this time, TL and I began a habit of making one night each week a “family night” and another night each week a “date night.”  I started planning family trips and activities as well as trips and activities just for TL and I as a couple.  After each one, I planned another. One way or another we needed to do these things to rebuild our relationship. I knew TL was too traumatized to do it. And, I also knew that this was a way I could show her my level of investment in our relationship and our family.

We began our dinner time ritual when each family member names one thing for which they were thankful that particular day and one positive thing they are anticipating the next day.  This practice has been super important for me and one I wanted to share with our children.  One of my many problems prior to D-day had been that I did not count my blessings. I did not appreciate what I had.  I was always focused on the negative.  I even remember my father telling me to count my blessings when I was a very young child.  Instead of counting my blessings, I had spent 42 years angry at God for things I did not have rather than thankful to God for things I did have.  This anger helped me justify taking matters into my own hands and illicitly taking things that were not mine to take.

Why I regret cheating

Here’s a conversation TL and I sometimes have.  She asks if I regret cheating.  I say, “Of course.”  She asks why. I say because it hurt her terribly, I regret my cruelty and selfishness, and the damage to TL and our relationship is immeasurable.  She asks, “Is that all?”  “If you only regret it because it hurt me” she says, “One day you might randomly change your mind about that and go back to lying and cheating.  If you only regret it because it hurt me, you might still harbor some joy, pride, fondness, or lack of remorse about the affair.”  I don’t really follow that logic.  But, no, I totally regret the affairs.  The only time I ever think about the affairs is when TL asks me to think about them.  And, those thoughts are negative.

Here’s the other things I regret about the affairs.  First, I regret the way I was during those affairs.  I was selfish and distracted.  This made me a bad husband, bad father, bad employee, bad colleague, and bad person.  I hurt my children.  I deprived myself of the full joy of marriage and fatherhood.  I deprived myself of full, meaningful relationships with family, friends, and colleagues.  I deprived myself of smart dedication to success in career, health, and other endeavors. I was amoral. I was a liar and a cheater.  My behavior and thinking during those times will be a source of regret for me until I die, even if TL leaves me.

Second, my behavior in those affairs was pathological.  I was desperately seeking an antidote to my low self-esteem.  I didn’t get the antidote.  The affairs ultimately made my self-esteem worse, knowing I could only get shallow flattery through illicit acts.

“But, wait,” TL says, “What about all those great things about affairs that Esther Perel and all sorts of cheaters describe?”  The list is long.  Was it thrilling?  Was it exciting?  Was it a source of adrenaline rush?  Yes, there is an adrenaline rush from doing something illicit.  But, that’s not a pleasant memory.  It’s not joyous, like the adrenaline rush from skydiving. It’s sick, like I imagine the rush from shoplifting would be.  It’s sick, shameful, and something that will never bring me anything but remorse. It’s not like butterflies in your stomach. It’s more like spiders, crawling up your spine. I regret it, for its own sake.

Did I love the APs?  No.  I wasn’t capable of loving anyone back then — not TL, not myself, not parents, not children, and certainly not APs.  To me, the APs were just blow-up dolls that could talk.  Had they gotten hit by a car after I orgasmed in them, I wouldn’t have given a damn.  And, yes, that too says something pretty awful about me.  I never missed those women and never will.

Was the sex enjoyable?  It was sex.  That’s all I wanted at the time — sex and flattery.  Any sex was good enough.  But, was it good sex?  Not really.  In a few cases, APs or prostitutes performed a certain sex act that TL and I did not do.  That doesn’t mean they gave me better sex.  I thought of them as whores.

Would I contact the AP in the future if TL died or divorced me?  No.  I would have no desire to do so.  Those women were as flawed as I was.  Now, they would just be time-wasting reminders of my flaws.  I’m trying to move forward as a man, adult, father, employee, and friend.  Those women have nothing to offer me.

Did I ever reminisce about the APs or the affairs in my mind?  No.  I did wish for a certain sex act. But, that was about the act, not the person. I was not open to talking about sexual desires with TL, I was too occupied with my sick obsessions.

Would I have dated those women in a hypothetical past where TL and I were not together?  I don’t know.  With TL, I was a desperate man — desperate for sex, without being haunted by my sick obsessions, and for flattery as an antidote to my low self-esteem.  Without TL, in some hypothetical past reality, I would have been even more desperate — desperate for sex and self-esteem, and lacking friendship too.  I would have possibly dated any woman who gave me attention.

Were the APs more attractive than TL?  No. They were all flat-chested and unremarkable.  TL is really a beautiful woman, inside and outside.  And, honestly, even the quality of the actual sex with TL has always been better.

Did I value the APs more than I valued TL?  No.  They could fall off the face of the earth and I wouldn’t care.  TL, on the other hand, has always been the most important woman in my life.  Yes, I arrived at lying and cheating by putting myself before TL.  But, aside from my selfish self, TL was always the most important person for me.

If my view of women was so self-centered and shallow, what was special to me about TL?  Despite my terrible lack of understanding about love and relationships, I was always supremely impressed by TL, proud of her, attracted to her, and drawn to her friendship in a way I’ve never experienced with anyone else.  I only recently learned to love properly.  But, I have always felt limerence for TL.  Yes, TL and I believe loving is more important than limerence.  The former is real, while the latter is insufficient for a lasting, healthy relationship.  But, I really have always felt limerence for her.

MC: “What is love?”

Did I love TL?  Did I love any of the APs?  TL reminded me of a time before D-day when she had asked me whether I loved her and I had asked, “What is love anyway?”  Today, I learned something more about that.  I was so impressed after D-day when I learned from Rick Reynolds what love really is. It is a choice, to put the other person first — a choice to love them.  You don’t fall into it, nor do you fall out of it.

But, today I understand the corollary.  I understand that I didn’t love TL before D-day.  I had a connection to her.  I was extremely infatuated, intrigued, and aroused by her.  I wanted to possess her.  I was proud of her, attracted to her, and impressed by her. I wanted her and needed her.  I wanted her to take care of me.  On the whole, and despite my demands, anger, selfishness, and childishness, I had a positive view of her that I never had for anyone else.

I wanted her to meet my needs.  But, by the true definition of love, I had never loved anyone in my life.  I did not love TL before D-day.  And, I did not ever love any AP or other person.

Then, there’s a really sick thing I did with love.  I told AP3 I loved her.  As I wrote that to AP3, I knew it was not true.  After D-day, TL asked me whether I had loved AP3.  At first, I confessed, I was still confused about what love is and whether I had loved AP3.  Later, when I learned what love is, it was clear to me I had not loved AP3.  I don’t recall telling AP1 or AP2 I loved them.  Maybe I did say that.  I don’t know.

What’s worse is that by my old, warped, wrong definition of love, I did love the APs and did not love TL.  My old definition of love was:  this person meets my needs.  So, by that definition, at the time I told myself, “This AP gives me sex and flattery.  She meets my needs.  TL does not give me the one-sided, male-serving sex I want nor the exaggerated, mental-masturbatory flattery I want.”  Never mind that TL gave me real love, care, loyalty, attention, friendship, financial and career partnership and stewardship, family, beautiful experiences, devotion, and countless other precious things.  I was so sick, that I saw sex and flattery out of perspective from all those other precious aspects of life and relationships.  By that sick definition of love, I loved the APs and not my wife.

But, that’s not love.  That was an incorrect definition of love.  Soon enough there came a point when each AP could not meet my needs. I needed them to give me sex without reminders of my jealousies, insecurities, and feelings of inadequacy.  I knew that with AP1, those feelings would come after me if I put any real emotional capital into a relationship with her.  Those feelings followed me.  They emanated from me.  I invested emotional capital into TL, and my sick obsessions haunted me.  I treated APs like sexual cattle and the sick obsessions didn’t bother me at all with them.

I thank God for D-day and the opportunity to get my head on straight.  I understand now that I had not loved TL, APs, nor anyone before, and that I can love TL and only TL now.  I understand that my sick old definition had me thinking I loved APs before and not TL.  And, I understand that prior to D-day, regardless of love, I did have special feelings for TL that — however incomplete and imperfect my feelings — were unique and reserved only for TL.

Read “Romanticism:  Don’t believe the lie,” by Rick Reynolds.  And, no, we don’t have a financial relationship with his Affair Recovery business nor do we advertise for him.  We did take his class and I continue to read a lot of his work because I find it very helpful.  Maybe it will help you.  Maybe you’ll find other sources that help you more.

After you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your reactions.

MC: “I never counted my blessings.”

By now you’re probably wondering why I was married to TL at all if I was so self-centered.  Why didn’t I just stay single or get divorced so I could spend all my time with porn, cybersex, and easy women.  Did I love TL?  On one hand, I didn’t know the meaning of the word “love” until I learned it from Rick Reynolds after D-day.  I didn’t know that loving TL was an active, conscious choice I had to make.  On the other hand, even with my warped and limited understanding of the word “love,” I have always loved TL, more than I’ve ever loved anyone except myself.

But, it wasn’t the kind of unconditional love I have for animals or for my own children. It was conditional on TL making me feel good, physically and emotionally.  Given my deep emotional problems, no one could make me feel good emotionally — not until I finally learned to take responsibility for that myself.

But, yes, though I was jealous, insecure, and demanding toward TL, I did feel she was the only woman I wanted as a wife, friend, and partner.  Yes, it’s contradictory and hypocritical.  That’s the point.  My behavior and my world view were contradictory and hypocritical.  Please know that I know and regret that fact.

For example, I was always very proud of how beautiful TL was and is.  Between my self-centeredness and my frequent scheming to cheat, I did not express that often in a healthy way.  But, TL has always been an object of pride and desire for me.  I was always grateful for her kindness and thoughtfulness.  Of course, I totally failed to learn from her example.  And, I never counted my blessings.  I never truly appreciated what I had in her.  I also fell for and stayed with TL because her intelligence was impressive, attractive, engaging, and satisfying.

The only thing wrong with TL — the only thing not perfect about her — was her nagging lack of a magic wand that could instantly give me self-esteem, change the realities of her past and mine, and fill the bottomless pit of my desire for sexual gratification and flattery.

We did have good times together.  I remember them fondly.  We moved in together after marriage.  I was so happy about that.  She got a new job.  I was so proud of her.  I was always proud of her successes.  She unearthed and solved a serious problem at her job.  That too filled me with pride and happiness for her.  She taught me new activities that I learned to enjoy, things like sipping wine and soaking in the hot tub, reading tarot cards as a jungian tool and even just a fun game, or even just playing card games together.  I enjoyed her friendship.  I enjoyed being near her.  I could never imagine being away from her.

Her employer took us on a small cruise once.  Another time we went to a company brunch together. I was so happy and satisfied to be part of her world and to have her as part of mine.  Later, she found a job closer to mine, in the same industry.  Again, I was very, very proud of my wife’s success at finding the job.  We commuted together.  We saw each other at times throughout the day, or at least spoke by phone during the day.  Each night we would share the tales of our days together.  I felt so close to her, and so happy in those moments.

My company went through changes, and TL and I decided the most logical next step was for us to move and for me to get a graduate degree.  The move was not without challenges, but I felt very close to TL as we took on a new adventure together.  Yes, by this time I already had a sorry history of illicit behavior.  But, even I tried to ignore that fact.  I showed TL too many moments of melancholy and self-pity.  But, when I was able to break free from those negative feelings, I was present with TL.  I remember fondly our dinners together, our incremental efforts to make our home a nice place to live, and my desire to spend time with her. Yes, by this time, there were already too many moments when I was in fact not desiring to spend time with TL. Rather, I was spending too much time on self-centered pursuits. However, contradictory thought it may be, I also had plenty of moments when I really did want to spend time with TL.

She got a good job in our new city.  Again, I was impressed.  And, I owe her the world for being our financial, as well as emotional, pillar during that period.  But, her commute was long.  She found us a newer, better, closer place to live.  She always found our homes.  She has always taken care of us so well.

In the new place we enjoyed a wonderful choice of restaurants, establishments, and long walks together.  We made some friends together, hosted little parties, and occasionally went out.  We took country drives together in our convertible, exploring new places.  We took turns introducing each other to shows and movies.  I, of course, took more than my fair share of turns.  Even as I slipped deeper into my double-life and even my affair, my time with TL was still the most important time to me.

Yes, I didn’t appreciate it.  Too often I pouted or complained about wanting more.  I missed a million opportunities to appreciate TL and to show her my appreciation.