Here we go again

Anger is often called a secondary emotion because we tend to resort to anger in order to protect ourselves from or cover up other vulnerable feelings. A primary feeling is what is felt immediately before we feel anger. We almost always feel something else first before we get angry. We might first feel afraid, attacked, offended, disrespected, forced, trapped, or pressured. If any of these feelings are intense enough, we think of the emotion as anger. (www.creducation.org)

After I was past the worst of the anguish from that last painful episode, I continued to have lingering feelings of unease. Not debilitating, but nagging at the back corners of my mind. My instincts were kicking in. Something was just not right with Blue Eyes. On good days Blue Eyes seems happy and content. He goes about the day without appearing angry or resentful and our life together is enjoyable. On Sunday he had deftly dealt with my visiting family and did not appear annoyed with me. He eased into Sunday night, attended his Buddhist meditation, we enjoyed a healthy late dinner together, read a little, and another week was in the books.

Blue Eyes is now more than five weeks post hip replacement surgery, and I believe most of his pain has receded, but then, he had physical therapy on Monday and she (the physical therapist, we like to call her the drill sergeant) asked him to stop taking ibuprofen. He has been off the other stronger meds since the week after surgery, but he quickly replaced them with his regular OTC drug of choice, ibuprofen. She said she thought it a good idea if he lived with the pain to gauge just exactly where and how much he was feeling. In other words, not to immediately medicate at the first sign of any discomfort. Well, Blue Eyes is an addict. He doesn’t like pain of any kind, and, he doesn’t like being told he can’t have his drugs. We went round and round about the drugs post surgery. I was in charge of them and tried to gauge his need for them versus his want for them. After the PT’s edict, I could see the resentfulness peering out from under Blue Eyes’ otherwise controlled veneer when he told me about the drill sergeant’s request. He has said numerous times since then, like a defiant child, “I can take pain meds if I need them.” I believe he is getting this off some internet source or another. Many talk about how the lingering pain from this kind of surgery can last for months. Blue Eyes will take any excuse to numb his pain. I am aware of this. The bigger issue is his resentfulness and anger at being told he should not be taking pain medication. He is on his own on this one, but I could see the little cracks starting to appear.

Then, Monday early evening Blue Eyes burst into my office and started talking about an assignment he had been given by his therapist the week before. I had no idea where he was at with his therapist, nor what they were working on at the moment. He said his therapist had asked him to go back to his childhood and think about the feelings and emotions surrounding his illnesses and surgeries of the past. He started rambling on about how he had gone on the internet and researched his old surgeon and had come to find out that he had been one of the surgeon’s few early failures. Blue Eyes had extensive surgery on his digestive system when he was a teenager. He had suffered from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis since he was 6, and Ulcerative Colitis since he was 10. Apparently, depending on the situation, they often wait to perform surgery on children until they are sure the child will not outgrow the illness or that it does not go into remission on its own. In terms of the colitis, that meant years of abdominal and digestive pain. When he did finally receive the surgery to repair the diseased intestines, he was relieved and lived a fairly normal lifestyle (except for the occasional debilitating bout with the arthritis) for a few years. He finished out high school and was two years into college when the surgery failed. I met Blue Eyes at this time in his life, as his body was rejecting him once again. I have never known a completely healthy Blue Eyes. Perhaps there never was a healthy Blue Eyes.

Back to my office… he is angry. No doubt about it he is pissed off that he was one of the few failures, a guinea pig if you will. Because of the lack of success of that first operation, he had to have numerous subsequent operations. I was with him for all of them. I start to ask him what the point of this assignment is, the one given to him by his therapist? He says he doesn’t know. He is just supposed to go back to his childhood and remember the feelings from when he was sick and what he felt when he had surgery. Right now all I see is anger. But, from what I know about it, anger stems from other emotions. Blue Eyes was the first to come home from therapy way back when and talk about how anger is a secondary emotion.

Anger is a Secondary Emotion

What many people don’t realize is that anger is a secondary emotion. What does this mean? Typically, one of the primary emotions, like fear or sadness, can be found underneath the anger. Fear includes things like anxiety and worry, and sadness comes from the experience of loss, disappointment or discouragement.

Feeling fear and sadness is quite uncomfortable for most people; it makes you feel vulnerable and oftentimes not in control. Because of this, people tend to avoid these feelings in any way they can. One way to do this is by subconsciously shifting into anger mode. In contrast to fear and sadness, anger can provide a surge of energy and make you feel more in charge, rather than feeling vulnerable or helpless. Essentially, anger can be a means of creating a sense of control and power in the face of vulnerability and uncertainty.

Let’s look at a few examples. When anger arises between couples sometimes there’s a fear of abandonment underneath. In these instances, it’s a combination of fear and anticipatory loss that can fuel the anger. Uncertainty – when you lack ample information and things feel amorphous – can also trigger anger. Why? Because uncertainty touches upon the “unknown,” which tends to be scary for most people. Even boredom can generate anger or irritation because there can be a subtle sense of loss or fear associated with the experience of not engaging in something stimulating or productive.

While having some “sense of control” is correlated with greater emotional wellbeing, excessive desire for control only leads to suffering, as it’s impossible to always be in control, especially of other people’s behavior. (healthpsych.com)

So, here we sit in my office with Blue Eyes exhibiting obvious anger, but he is unable to put it all into perspective. He is stunted. He was a lonely, emotionally starved child who felt like he wasn’t good enough, that he wasn’t lovable. He lived with fear and anxiety every day. His parents did and said cruel things and Blue Eyes felt bad about his body, and bad about himself. This all spiraled into addictive behaviors that have been with him since he was a child. WE KNOW ALL THIS ALREADY FOR FUCK’S SAKE. This is when I start to lose it. It is so fucking difficult to keep going back over and over and over this shit without a big huge fucking lightbulb going off above Blue Eyes’ head. How can he not get this already? How can he not understand what happened to him? How can he not heal from it? I know it all takes time, but I am growing impatient. I continue to ask him if he understands the point of the exercise he has been given by his therapist. I mean not only has he procrastinated on completing the assignment until the night before therapy, but he seems to have lost track of the “why.” Blue Eyes can see that I have had enough and he leaves my office. We abandon the conversation there.

Later that night, The Peacemaker and I make the mistake of getting caught up in a men’s singles Australian Open tennis match and stayed up way too late. Finally when the outcome of the match is an obvious inevitability, I stop watching and decide to call it a night. It is about 1:30am and I need to be somewhere in the morning. Blue Eyes has been dozing for an hour or so. As I commence my bedtime ritual, Blue Eyes wakes up. He wants to talk. We talk about how he has been feeling unsettled since he found out the severity of his hip situation and since he decided to have surgery. He says he knows he has not been doing well in his addiction recovery since this time. That his progress has stagnated because of his fear about the surgery, and his anger post surgery due to the physical pain. He said he has been discussing this with his therapist and thus the assignment to go back and visit his feelings from childhood. My instincts were correct, there has been something going on for the past two months, something that Blue Eyes kept inside himself, except when he decided to share with his therapist. As we struggle as a couple, in my mind, it is once again because Blue Eyes is hiding what is really going on inside and exhibiting behaviors that frankly, turn me off.

My instincts tell me to ask him if during all this time, since finding out there is no cartilage left in his hip, finding out he would need surgery and that in fact the surgery would happen within the month, during his obsessive researching of how the surgery would be performed and what the recuperation would be, while attending numerous pre-operative appointments, and then finally during his hospital stay and after, did he think about calling the other woman. I know he was scared of surgery. He has this horrible childhood history and lingering feelings associated with it. I know he didn’t want to have the replacement. I know he probably felt alone, lonely, and anxious and because he hasn’t really mastered his addiction yet, he is not recovered yet, he needed something to help him cope.

You see, I know Blue Eyes used the other woman. He used the thought of the other woman and the sex with the other woman to ease his own feelings of fear and anxiety. He used this fantasy version of her to cope with life. He pretended in his mind that she was that loving mother figure he never had. She wasn’t really. The way I have described her is accurate to everything I know about her including her stalking and bullying behaviors towards me, but he lived in a deep dark world lacking any resemblance to reality. He exhibited a long drawn out pattern exacerbated by the fact that he was unable to share his true feelings with anyone real in his life. DOES ANYONE ELSE SEE WHERE I AM GOING WITH THIS???

So, as we sat there talking at 3:30-ish in the morning, Blue Eyes said he had struggled and he did have those feelings that in the past had prompted him to call the other woman. As recently as July, 2013 Blue Eyes called and texted obsessively, met up with, and had sex with the other woman all because he had been hospitalized for intestinal blockage and due to a botched procedure at the hospital, he had had to stay there for seven days. I was at home taking care of his 10 week old puppy. If I had known he was an addict and couldn’t be left alone for fear of his loneliness and anxiety taking over the rational part of him and leading him into an addictive state, I would have scheduled round the clock visitors. He wouldn’t have spent one minute alone, and he wouldn’t have spent one second with that horrifying other woman. But I didn’t know, and the rest is history. This time, however, I was by his side. I was right there after the x-ray of his hip. I was right there when the doc gave the prognosis. I was there for every appointment. I listened to him over and over describe what would happen during the surgery. I was at the hospital EVERY SINGLE SECOND of the time he was there. I brought him home. I took care of his every need. I WAS THERE AND I WAS NURTURING AND LOVING AND KIND AND GENTLE. I made him all his meals and doled out meds, brought him drinks, and ice packs. I helped him in and out of bed and took on and off those damn compressive stockings. I brought him books, and electronics. I watched movies with him and I loved him to the extent humanly possible, and, and, and, IT JUST WASN’T ENOUGH.

He did not call the other woman. He did not do anything to threaten his beloved sobriety, but he did struggle. And he still struggles. The pain of his childhood is etched into every fiber of his being. When he can’t cope, he hides. When he hides, anxiety and fear turn into anger and resentment and without his traditional coping drug, guess who the resentment is directed at. Yeah. Life ain’t fair is probably the greatest understatement ever spoken. I told him I understood how difficult it is for him to manage those demons but that he needed to be honest and open with me when he is struggling. I need to know why those angry emotions are seeping through the surface. I need to be able to put things into perspective. Harboring secret feelings is destructive to both of us. I had no idea his hip surgery had conjured so many negative memories and emotions from his childhood or frankly that he is STILL unable to manage those emotions.

Yesterday morning we dragged ourselves out of bed with maybe five hours of sleep to work with. I had to be somewhere. Blue Eyes offered to make me breakfast and I accepted, and then he did. Since we started the Whole30, I have prepared 90% of the meals for the three of us. I welcomed the offer of food that I didn’t have to prepare. During breakfast he was quiet. He was running up against his therapy appointment and he was running out of time to take a shower. Before leaving the house, I headed downstairs to wish him a good day and that I hoped he was able to work some things out in therapy. We met on the stairway and he just looked at me resentfully, most likely blaming me for his not having time to shower. He said nothing to me. I was running 20 minutes late, but I didn’t want to leave on a stressed note. Turns out I didn’t get my wish. Truth be told, I have given him plenty of resentful looks and exerted a lot of anger his way both pre- and post-dday, but I have never betrayed him in the name of anything and I still get those little hits of trauma that scare me. The look he gave me at that moment was one of pure disdain. If he had been honest at that exact point in time, I mean truly honest, I think he would have said “just stop talking you fucking bitch, you have already cost me my shower. I don’t care what you think or say right now” (he would never of course say those words… he has never called me a name, but if there were no filters and he was really being honest, well). I turned around and walked up the stairs and left the house with that look stuck in my head. It seems, I just can’t win.

To be continued…

26 thoughts on “Here we go again

  1. I am sure you have studied every piece of information you can about childhood traumas so if I write somwthing you are already familiar with I apologize. Pull up cycle of trust in how children develop emotionally. There is a need, the child expresses the need(infants cry), the need is met, the child relaxes and trust begins. Each time, through the years, as a child needs something and it is met in a timely manner with love the trust deepens. Families who withhold love, approval, nurturing make it nearly impossible for the child to fully develop trust. (A psychologist told a friend of mine it only takes about a week for a parent to drive a child crazy. Literally) your husband had the physical issues to deal with as well. It appears, from your writing, that he could protect himself from the pains of his childhood by hiding from it. Planning and executing affairs kept him with one foot out the door. If you consider the fight or flight response of a person in danger I would guess that is the place from which he operated. I send good thoughts to you both.

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    • Yes, the specialists believe he was neglected and lacked nurturing from infancy. Eventually housekeepers took care of him and let him sleep in their beds and this is where his template for acting out partners was formed. His fight or flight response led him to hide inside his addiction and get hits from sex. That started at about age 9 or 10. His illnesses were auto immune related, stress induced. His sexual acting out was a short term fix for deep wounds. He was never looking for a permanent way out, just a temporary way out of his anxiety, stress, pain, fear, resentment etc… Not only was he in control of his secret life, but he depended on those hits to survive. Recovering from ALL of that, along with dealing with my sex addiction induced trauma response, is overwhelming. His surgery brought up a whole lot of fear and anxiety that he is still trying to metabolize, without his drug. 😢

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      • Imagine never having happiness as a child. Imagine always keeping your guard up. (I am so grateful for my happy childhood. I believe yours was as well). He has to deal with the idea that his family got away with abuse, whether it was emotional or physical it had the same results. I assume no one went jail, no one was shunned. They got away with harming their child. He needs to go looking for the rage that runs his life. It’s there. I have suggested this on another blog. EMDR pulls memories out and allows the person to deal with them. They don’t go away but their power over the person is diminished..
        I am on the East Coast. Good night.

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  2. This is a weird way to react to your blog. I barely got into it before I realized that I am 100% sympathetic towards your husband. Not for the cheating, but, oh my gosh, the amount of physical and emotional pain he has lived with all of his life. I just lost a beloved family member to an overdose. He suffered acute, chronic ulcerative c. The pain would be gone for just a few weeks and return. He couldn’t stand it anymore. On top of that to be stricken with RA is so very sad. You have written about how he was treated by his family. Poor little boy. Love him, Kat. Just put your arms around him and love him. Nobody did when he needed it. I hope the two of you can find blessed relief in your marriage, in each other, in your children and in your healing.

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    • Let go, I am going to share honestly with you here… we have had a very difficult day, which I will write about later, but as I collapsed into a chair this evening in my husband’s downtown office, after he shared some especially difficult feelings, difficult for both of us to grasp and metabolize, I read your comment to him out loud. I couldn’t even get through it without bursting into tears. You made us both cry. Thank you for getting it. Thank you for understanding his pain. I do love him dearly and have always tried to provide the nurturing he didn’t receive as a little boy… but since he wasn’t living in his own reality (or I guess better put, I wasn’t living in his reality) and he was never honest about how desperately he thought he needed his drug to cope, my love and nurturing was never going to be enough. This is why I say that for him being diagnosed as a sex addict was a lifeline to healing. He needed that diagnosis and the subsequent treatment in order to even survive to this point. By the time the OW called me, he was at rock bottom. He didn’t even want to give in to her blackmailing anymore to protect his secret. I believe he wants to heal, and that is why I stay. Unfortunately, the trauma caused by the phone call by the OW and the subsequent disclosure period that lasted for about 10 months left me so weak and vulnerable. We are both trying very very hard to heal ourselves and our marriage. Thank you.

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  3. I’m sorry for your pain. I do think some of the hard wiring differences in men and women creates many of our struggles. Add in our own personal issues and demons and its amazing anyone can stay in a relationship.
    I hope there is some clarity and forward progress from this.

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    • We’re still working on the forward progress, and I believe that I have a lot of clarity, BE is still mastering the concept. There’s a lot going on right now. I do agree, men and women are definitely different creatures and that complicates an already complicated situation. xxx

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  4. Do you ever feel really angry yourself? I mean, if I was in your position, I know I would be. Look at all the problems you have as a result of someone else’s consequences. You are so good to BE. It is absolutely unfair sometimes 😒

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    • My emotions run the gamut. A lot of times, I just feel defeated. Like I am fighting a never ending battle with someone who should never have started a war with me. I don’t want to be at war. I don’t even want to be in conflict. The things he does, whether intentional or not, hurt me. DEEPLY. The fact that he cannot figure this out and cannot change his behavior, more than anything, sucks the life out of me. I have flashes of anger that come about after much neglect, pain, sadness, frustration… I am not angry about what he did and what he does, not really, I am desperately hurt that he just doesn’t think about how he is treating me. That lack of empathy demon rears it’s ugly head way too often. I fear it is time for me to seek out a new therapist (I am cringing even as I type this… ). If I am going to stay, I think my son is right, I need help getting by. Life is absolutely so unfair sometimes. ❤

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      • I hate to say this but sometimes I think when it comes to men it’s best to just expect nothing (I hate that I feel like I have to lower my expectations so much), and just take the good as a gift. Somehow, as women we need to learn to detach ourselves — they do it to us all the time. I wish I knew that trick. We need to take men out of space #1 and put ourselves there instead.
        Why do men lack empathy so much? I don’t know, but it hurts like hell sometimes. We need to stop expecting it. I hate that. If anything, you would think these men are our best friends, but they are not, we are.

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        • Yes, men and women are just different. I know my expectations are way too high. How do I know that? Because he is constantly disappointing me. The thing is, I don’t get angry enough maybe… maybe sad and pathetic doesn’t work as well as anger and fisticuffs (just kidding, I’m a lover, not a fighter 😉 ). Even though my comments might not necessarily reflect it, I am having a fine day. Busy busy need to get in the shower. Meetings at the office today and then The Danish Girl after. Looking forward to a movie, but I WILL be craving buttered popcorn. xxx ❤

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  5. Kat, so sorry to hear all this. As HC Says – you do write a clear picture & your awareness is phenomenal. I am the world’s worst when it comes to anything to do with health issues so recognise the fear that morphs into anger as a way of pseudo control. I also understand the trauma of surgery for both you & blue eyes but of course, all of this is just one aspect of a much much bigger issue. No wonder you feel as you do. It’s mentally & physically exhausting. Hugs to you xxxx

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    • As I read this, MR, as I read the words “mentally & physically exhausting” I breathed a deep knowing sigh. It is so very very very draining. It sucks the life right out of me. I do believe the way BE behaves allows him to believe he has control where in the past he felt out of control. My problem with that is, he has had control of his life for many many years. He made all the choices he has just refused to acknowledge that it is him, that person doing all those things and behaving in those ways, is really him. He lacks awareness of his own reality. It is a huge dilemma. I hope his therapy is helping because absolutely nothing I say really sinks in. Sometimes I feel like I am talking to the wall (a very resentful wall). Thanks for the hugs dear lady, I always need them. ❤

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    • Thank you for your kind comment. Hopefully the result of that thinking helped you in some small way. I really do try to be incredibly understanding and patient and I am incredibly observant and compassionate and I think it works against me sometimes. I think my expectations of others are just too high because of it. xxx

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  6. Beautifully written yet such a sad story. That ‘look’ BE gave you makes me sad. I hope you have had a chance to talk it out now. It is not easy to recover after such a surgery. There are many side effects and I hope with time and less pain that he will feel better.
    Take care xxx

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    • He has a lot of baggage and that complicates everything. It is the look of “I am tired of dealing with you. I have my own shit to deal with.” Just think, if he wasn’t the way he was and hadn’t done what he did, I would have VERY LITTLE shit to actually deal with. Imagine that… it was only a little over two years ago that I walked around completely oblivious and happy. My smiles and my laughter were completely spontaneous. I didn’t think about lying, cheating whores. I didn’t worry about my physical safety. I didn’t ever cry myself to sleep. I had NEVER cried myself to sleep. It is difficult at this point to imagine that the old Kat and the new Kat are even the same person. I am forever changed and perhaps stronger, but certainly different. I actually don’t think he is in much physical pain anymore. I think he allowed himself to go to that emotionally painful place where his childhood wounds reside, and he had a big fucking pity party there. That is what I think. xoxo

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  7. I’m not sure of his underlying medical status, but Tylenol is great for post operative pain, especially when alternated with Ibuprofen. Ice, compression- even though the hose are discontinued- and elevation are great remedies for pain. Of course, Movement is the best, but it seems like he is doing quite a bit of getting out. He has no idea how lucky he is to have had you by his side peri- operatively. His outcome would have been different if he hadn’t. Hands down. I’m sorry he can’t appreciate your gift in a way that we expect. Turn the situation around – would he do all of that for you? Without those evil looks? That’s love. True love. He doesn’t have to say it, just show it. It seems like recovery should have more of that modeling of good behavior for him. He obviously didn’t see it growing up and he can’t dream it up himself. I just feel like someone- besides you- modeling the way to treat a woman would be good. I pray he gets it. You so deserve it. You are amazing CrazyKat 🎀

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    • Hi, A. Yes, he was on Tylenol from the beginning. Tylenol and tramadol and oxycodone. The oxy was the first to go, then the tramadol. As soon as he was able, he alternated the tylenol and the ibuprofen. When the pain lessened, he switched to just ibuprofen. However, he doesn’t really wait for pain to set in… if he feels the least bit uncomfortable, he downs the ibuprofen. I think the PT just wants him to be able to feel the pain so they can gauge how severe and where it is coming from. He just doesn’t like being told he can’t take the pain reliever, regardless. It’s a control thing. As he has said many times, he will take it if he feels like it, and I am sure he will. I was more concerned with the anger and resentment that has been brewing in him. I will also remind him about icing the painful areas. He forgets that. ❤

      So, in terms of appreciating me, I am grappling with this concept daily it seems. Does he not appreciate me, or does he just let his old demons get in the way of showing it? I think he is still so self absorbed that he lets himself off the hook. When push comes to shove, he will always think of himself and his own needs first. Which is fine when he is exclusively dealing with himself, but when he is with me, and I still have some trauma (that is obvious), I need him to make that leap into being a more compassionate human being. I'm not asking for perfection. It's a pretty fine line here. The deeper we go on this journey, I am looking for the old cliche, progress not perfection. When I don't see progress, or I feel a backward slide for whatever reason, bells and whistles go off all over the place and I want to run for cover, which translates to, I want to call it quits. I also agree, he doesn't really know how to treat me and since his 12 step is all about him, and his therapy is all about him, and even I try to be there for him a lot, until I break down in a heap of tears, I don't think he really thinks about my needs. He has invited me to come to his therapist appointment next week where I will talk about my needs and how what they are working on does not seem to incorporate into helping him be a better partner. I feel like I do deserve better… it is the underlying basis for all my concerns. Thank you for your kind compliment. xoxo

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  8. If you can catch him during a reasonable moment, try this maybe: I used to tell my children “pain is there for a reason. It doesn’t mean that you should suffer through the aftermath of knee surgery with no medication but if you’re hopped up on pain medication, you can conceivably hurt yourself and not even know it. PAIN IS THERE FOR A REASON.”

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