“The only winning move is not to play.”

Painted in Waterlogue

When I think back to how things used to be, with Blue Eyes, it is difficult to remove the umbrella of pain and sadness and trauma that seems to hover over those memories. If I dig deep though, I know what we had was pretty great in the scheme of things. We had a long term loving relationship. We have two kids we adore and we spent over two decades raising them the best way we knew how. Blue Eyes volunteered in their little preschool rooms. The photo above is a watercolor of one of my favorites. A cute photo of Blue Eyes in a suit sitting cross legged on the floor of The Peacemaker’s classroom reading to the kids, and they are all gathered around him in a tight circle with The Peacemaker sitting right next to his Daddy, with his little arm around Blue Eyes’ back, hugging him, loving every minute of it.

Blue Eyes purchased a fancy pitching machine and coached little league. He actually for once in his life worked his business schedule around something more important, his children. The second year, he coached a multi-age team and both boys played together on that team, coached by their Dad. My Step Father was the assistant coach. It was awesome! My boys are very similar to their Daddy in many ways and I remember the three of them going off to the theater to watch Batman movies, and science-fiction (not my thing), lots of sci-fi. Three little peas from the same pod. Blue Eyes even took three weeks out of his busy schedule in 2005 to chaperone a class trip to Japan.

Blue Eyes had a career he worked hard at and that gave him a lot of self satisfaction and he achieved a level of success that was admirable, a pioneer in our industry, and all the way through, I really loved my life. I spent so many years volunteering in the boys’ classrooms because I remembered how great it made me feel when my Mom did that. I ran my own bookkeeping business when the boys were small. I volunteered in the community, sat on boards, executive boards even, and ran fundraisers. My husband was always a busy man, remember, he trained me way back in Law School to expect very little of his time, so I filled my time with what I felt were productive activities. Most of all I was devoted to our kids and as I have written about, when The Pragmatist wanted to attend a private college prep high school, I went to work for Blue Eyes’ business (he always called it our business) as the chief operating officer.

The timing was great as our business was really taking off and Blue Eyes needed a beacon of ethics and a master of organization on his team. Enter, Kat. Together, we built a flourishing business. We were together a lot although Blue Eyes still spent a great deal of time working and traveling. These were the times he did the vast majority of his acting out. We rarely argued, we didn’t fight. When we struggled, with life, with childrearing, we had calm conversations and Blue Eyes usually deferred to me. It was kind of the division of labor… he worried more about business. I handled more of the domestic affairs. I guess I should have been more concerned by how calm our relationship was most of the time? My role models have a calm and loving relationship. I would not have thought to question what we had. Did I become exasperated at times with Blue Eyes’ behavior? Sure, I am not a deflector, I face shit head on. That was us, who we were. I confronted, he deferred or deflected. I handled it.

When I look back though, I was clueless. His time spent on his phone and his laptop, and away from the family, to me, was all about business. Again, something I had been trained by Blue Eyes to put a very high value on. I did not question him. I never snooped through his things. I know after the fact that he was diligent at erasing nearly everything, so there would not have been anything to find anyway, at least not without a solid mission and a lot of time and effort. The strange sexual email from the other woman in 2005, as a result of the Craig’s List ad, was an anomaly. Blue Eyes was stressed. He had done something strange and out of character (or so I thought). He had sought out someone to “talk” to. We all know the truth now, but the truth was hidden deep in lies back then. I was confused, but I actually even to this day don’t feel like I was in denial. There was nothing to deny… I live in truth and the truth that was presented to me at the time, although nothing I would ever do, made some sort of sense. The vast majority of our 30 years together at the point of impact, was loving and giving and productive and sexual and most everything I wanted from a life partnership. The missing bits, the masterful lying (not the lame “fake” little white lies I was aware of, but the real big huge lies), deceiving, adultery, betrayal, those were complete unknowns. How could I factor in, at the time, behaviors I was completely unaware of?

When his acting out was out of control in his own mind, when he wanted out and lost power over the behavior of his acting out partner, I was called. Literally. I.Was.Called. Whether intentional, or just frankly the way things panned out, he didn’t tell me the truth himself, but he orchestrated a situation by which I would find out the truth. At that time, he had no idea what the whole truth actually was. He just knew what he was doing was crazy. A kind of crazy making that potentially would have him dead from the stress of it all, sooner versus later. There was no one in his life who knew who he really was. There was a woman who believed he didn’t get sex from his wife and so she provided that to him periodically over an eight year period. She didn’t like how their relationship played out, but she played along anyway, as long as there was hope that he would call her and answer her texts and emails, because she didn’t have anyone else in her life to fill that huge void. She took what she got from someone who didn’t have a lot to give. And then, when he finally called it quits, I was the target of her wrath.

At this point, a fracture immediately split my world in two. My good, sweet, loving memories crumbled right there in front of me. Photos of our relationship and of our family provided what seemed like a limitless amount of torture. It took me months and months to make sense of what was real and what was not. In other words, the trauma set in, took hold, and didn’t want to let me go. I worked hard, and with the help of others, I tapped into that part of my personality that had allowed me to be strong in the past. It was still there, it was just buried under the rubble caused by the fracture of my reality.

Part of me wanted to believe that what I had was real. And in fact, what I had WAS real. But the other part of that reality is that my husband is a very sick man. So very sick that he learned to hone his skills at lying and hiding a part of his personality so adeptly that NO ONE knew it was there, and that is mind blowing. I say IS a sick man on purpose. As I heal, it becomes even more obvious how deep his pathology goes and how long the healing journey will be for him. I am well aware that my husband’s acting out behaviors were the symptom, not the cause and even though those acting out behaviors devastated my world, they are not at the root of what ails my husband and what continues to plague our relationship. Without treatment of the cause and diligent acknowledgement that treating the causes are critical to actual change, sexual sobriety is meaningless, treatment stalls, and my healing stagnates. There is an article by Dr. Omar Minwalla (originator of the Sex-Addiction-Induced-Trauma-Model [SAITM]) that was published on national psychologist.com in March, 2015 (‘Sexual Sobriety’ Leaves Victims Untreated), which discusses how merely diagnosing a sex addict and focusing on his/her ‘sexual sobriety’ leaves not only the partner, but the addict, lacking treatment for what underlies the addiction in the first place, not to mention disregarding the level of perpetration the spouse endures. In the article Dr. Minwalla says, “A disorder of chronic lying in a family system is pathology and requires treatment, regardless of sexual acting out or not. Chronic patterns of establishing and maintaining a deceptive, compartmentalized sexual-relational system in an intimate relationship or family system, is pathology and harmful…” He ends the article with, “after all and in fact, it is these dynamics of sex addiction-induced perpetrations that often ‘induce trauma,’ do more human damage and accrue more human cost than sexual acting out behaviors alone ever possibly could.”

Now a choice must be made. Blue Eyes must decide whether what he claims he wants, recovery, the rest of our lives together as a couple, mental health, true peace and joy, are things he is willing to work for. In the past, he allowed the addiction to control his thoughts and actions. He didn’t think about the dire circumstances of living inside his bruised and battered psyche, avoiding reality, and denying consequences. He didn’t know how to. Blue Eyes could not repair the fracture in me. I did that all on my own. What Blue Eyes can do, however, is make conscious choices in his life now, choices that embrace what he says he wants. Blue Eyes is doing a lot to work his recovery. On paper, he looks GOOD. In reality, I know he is stalled. This faltering has put me and our marriage in a vulnerable spot. He’s not lying about current events, or acting out sexually, or lacking in remorse. But, he is stagnating. I am honestly very good at evaluating him and his behavior at this point. I am even pretty damn good at figuring out my own behavior. I can literally psychoanalyze the hell out of both of us. I know what is going on. The problem, I cannot get Blue Eyes to understand his own behavior and how it is working against those things he claims to want most. I know this is a bitch of a journey. But knowing that, and living it are really quite different concepts. I know when he was small, he lost faith in his parents. He was verbally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abused. His parents lied to him and trained him to lie. Blue Eyes learned to live by his own rules. He pretended to be what other people thought he should be, and all the while he self medicated because he believed, in his heart, he was none of those things. In a certain sense, I was his salvation. I was the answer to his prayers. Unfortunately, he was too far gone. He wasn’t able to take that road to salvation, so he made me part of his facade. The rules were set. He made me a player in his game.

And now, the game must STOP. I know it is a game now. I never asked to play and I don’t want to play. I want out of the game. The only way out, unless I walk away from our marriage, is for Blue Eyes to stop playing the game. We still have so many conversations that end in Blue Eyes saying “ah, yes, I see what I did now…” He always stops short of saying “ah, yes, I see what I did now, AND how it affects you, AND therefore it is unacceptable for me to behave this way.” It is not just about empathy. It is about subconsciously manipulating everything around him in order to keep the game going. Not the game of sexual acting out, that was merely a small part of the subterfuge. This is about the game of never acknowledging who he really is and never acknowledging how his actions affect those around him. Of continually harming people he chose to bring into the game, potentially harming them more profoundly than his parents harmed him. Without the game, there is reality, but Blue Eyes has NEVER lived in his own reality. What Blue Eyes cannot seem to recognize, however, is that his life is a game that cannot be won. He must choose reality!

To quote one of the first movies Blue Eyes and I saw together, WarGames, “The only winning move is NOT TO PLAY.”

19 thoughts on ““The only winning move is not to play.”

  1. Kat, you’ve written a beautiful post. So touching. I really get the sense of what you had (or what you thought you had). It was beautiful. A wonderful family. I hate adultery with a vengeance. It destroys everything in its wake. Blue Eyes shared that wonderful life with you and your children. He knows he has shamefully failed you and this must be a heavy burden for him to carry. You both have such losses to contend with. Your safety and security. His dignity and reputation. The emotional carnage of adultery weighs heavy on all our hearts. It is a damaging experience that tests our resilience deeply. I appreciate that you face stormy waters because of the work Blue Eyes needs to continue to overcome his addiction but I don’t think of you on a life raft or an ill equipped boat. I see you on a sea worthy super liner that can handle the waves and this is because of all the work you have done in order to face the reality of your situation. You are a lovely writer and your words convey the sense of you. A beautiful phoenix.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, MR, while you were writing this comment, I was reading your latest blog entry. I will go back to your blog and comment after this reply. So, I despise adultery also. And to think, there was a time we really didn’t think about it at all. It doesn’t make sense in my world that people can be so selfish… I was just not raised that way, I don’t have it in my make up, so therefore it is a bitch to understand, deep down in there. Adultery in and of itself is so difficult to accept, then throw in addiction and I do feel like I was thrown into a swirling pit in the Bermuda triangle. Realizing your husband is fallible and vulnerable and dumb when it comes to temptation is one thing… realizing your husband is not the person you thought he was, and spent the past few decades lying to himself and everyone else, well, it is a bit overwhelming.

      I am TOTALLY sea worthy. I wasn’t at the beginning, or at least on the surface I didn’t appear to be. I am thankful for the help I received, but yeah, now, I am the captain of my own massive ship plowing through stormy waters. Blue Eyes likewise is not on a little dinghy, he is in a sailboat that is likewise sea worthy, but completely vulnerable to the choices he makes with his own sails. Thank you so much for the compliments. I enjoy writing and wish I no longer had this topic to write about. Every day I think… today is the day I am going to re-invigorate that travel blog. Or today is the day I am going to make our dream beach house blog a reality. Unfortunately, I am still here writing about this journey. I like the beautiful phoenix analogy. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Kat, thank you for sharing Omar’s article. It sheds light on something that is way too often overlooked. There IS too much attention focused on ceasing the acting out behavior but not enough attention focused on the lying behaviors. I think that is something that can be done with the right therapist and a good sponsor big on integrity. He just has to want to do it and not just give lip service to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment. Yeah, he has a great sponsor, a whole huge circle of guys, and a decent therapist, but he may have outgrown the therapist. In our house, this is not a linear journey. I’m not sure it is for anyone. In my opinion, at this point in year three, on step nine, 26 months sober, it’s time to step it up. He’s not just giving lip service, he’s still figuring things out. He agrees and wants that better life. I realize there’s no timeline for this kind of thing, but I see things he doesn’t. It’s a lot easier for me since I’m not an addict. He wants a healthy happy marriage for both of us, so he’s more than willing to listen to my needs and make changes. I’m not about compromising at this point. I actually see the light at the end of the tunnel now. xx

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  3. Sorry, I hit send too soon. I hope you and BE are touching each other in loving ways throughout the day. As marriages grow older we forget how important touch was to each other when we first married. He needs your hand on his shoulder, you need to hold hands, You both need to touch each other, and do this a lot. As you connect to each other physically it might help you connect emotionally. He has walled himself off for so long that you need to yank him back into into intimacy all the time. It is such a shame that this falls mostly on you but his damage is so severe he has no ability to do it for himself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree that we need to touch each other in loving ways throughout the day, and we do. He has what he calls the Thick Nhat Hanh hug where we embrace each other and hug three times while breathing in and out deeply. We touch all the time, but with BE there is never enough. We are very physically connected. He is not the type to wall himself off, in fact, he is quite the opposite. He is needy needy and very touchy feely. His Craig’s List ad went something like this… male seeking female to hug and hold me… he had the other woman hooked merely because she thought I was neglectful in my wifely duties to adore my husband, hug, hold and kiss my husband and make love with my husband (I know this because she wrote it in a card and sent it to my house). Just like me, she was never told the truth. She still believes I am that neglectful wife, but that for some reason BE has chosen me over her. That sucks! Anyway, we are still seeking some balance, but in the meantime, BE needs to learn to behave like an adult. He is not being neglected, but he is neglecting me in the process of rationalizing his continued selfish behavior.

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  4. I am guessing that BE does not make eye contact very often with people. They are the windows to our souls and he has effectively closed the doors said no one can see into his. I also so would imagine that when he was grooming women he could make eye contact in a flirtatious way. I am not a therapist so this only a suggestion. You and him, alone in your house with nothing to distract you, sitting face-to-face, knees to knees, holding both hands and looking in each other’s eyes. Tell him he needs to look at you and not look away as you talk to him about how you feel. He needs to learn how to connect with you. I think he needs to be married to you. I think he loves you. He is just terrified of getting inside his own head and letting that garbage out. He also needs to see inside you to know that he has dumped his garbage on you and it is going to take both of you to get rid of it.

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    • Hey, Let go, honestly, Blue Eyes is amazing with the eye contact. I don’t think he has closed the windows to his soul, I think he honed his acting skills and masks so that he knew what he was showing people was exactly what they wanted to see. He is a super friendly outgoing guy. An amazing salesman. Life of the party. People love him and he thrives off the attention of others. I think putting on that show, however, takes a HUGE toll and thus, the acting out behaviors, the addiction really stripped him over the past forty years. Purging himself of it is an ongoing battle. He never believed he really was that great guy, but he believed that other people believed he was that guy. When he is grooming women, he puts on his nerdy clumsy act. Actually, the email he used with the OW was clumsynerd@xxxxx.com. He was flirtatious, but more than anything with them (because remember, I saw him in action pre and post d-day) he was sweet and needy. He acted like he really cared about them. With the flower lady he was helping her with business ideas. With the 8 year acting out partner, he was her needy lover who liked to be tied up because his other life was so full of responsibility, he just wanted someone to use him, take him. It was all a big bullshit act. We had done that, and everything else, over the years, but I am not a monotonous lover. I mix it up a lot. BE is ritualistic, and the sex was just a drug, as monotonous as constant hits of meth. He never showed his real self to anyone and he was always in control. He decided when he would contact her and what trips he would invite her on. The only control she had was in her threats to call me, but he knew until he called it off, she was so hooked on what they had, being so lonely and needy herself, that she would never follow through and she didn’t follow through until she knew it was over for good and then of course she wanted retribution. He knew it was coming.

      As far as your advice, it is very good advice, the loving, non-genital touching in a quiet intimate environment. Blue Eyes LOVES any attention. He loves staring into my eyes and me staring back. He will quiver at any touch… I touched him this morning, on his shoulder, before getting out of bed and he was like a little boy who had never been touched before, he smiled and wanted to envelop me. He is so in need of human touch. He was so desperately neglected. I do totally get this. But I have been loving and touching and nurturing him for more than 30 years, but in a balanced way, that worked for me as a mature responsible functional adult. I know he needs continued loving touch, but he also needs to learn to live as an adult without manipulating the hell out of people. Omar Minwalla recommends a book called ‘King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine’ by Robert Moore. Have you heard of it? It is sort of a decoding of the Male Psyche, Jungian theory. Not only was Blue Eyes desperately neglected by his narcissist mother, but he was also given a terrible role model with horrible cues on how to be a mature man, by his father. It is a pretty devastating combination. Anyway, BE read the book before his 9-day intensive with Dr. Minwalla and it really stuck with him. But breaking his old habits is proving extremely difficult. You are correct… he does need to be married to me. He does love me, and I am understanding, compassionate, mature, loving, kind, generous, gentle and unfortunately, not so patient. In my mind, the thing with addicts like this, who have unleashed such torment on their unsuspecting wives, is that bearing the burden of what they have done, regularly and wholly, is too overwhelming. I believe he needs better tools to get in there, inside his own brain. The tools need to be ongoing and consistent, no breaks. Not all at once but continual and gradual. I don’t think he is getting what he needs from his current therapist. The guy takes BE into his childhood and into some of the recesses of the trauma and wounds, but he doesn’t effectively bring BE out. He doesn’t apply all of that pain to principles or anything current and functional. I am not a therapist, but I have been with BE for 32 years. I am still completely shocked that he hid so much of himself from me, but I can see it all pretty clearly now. It makes sense. It also is quite obvious how ingrained his behaviors are and how broken the little boy is. I cannot bring him into his present. He needs someone who can. I am a bit lost at this point.

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  5. I think the BE you always knew and loved is still that man, unfortunately there was another part of him that only recently got revealed. I honestly don’t think he wants to have that other acting out side anymore, and this is half the battle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He definitely does not want that other acting out side… I do believe that. I also know he is ill-equipped to figure out how to live without it. He needs more help. I just know I am not the one that will be able to provide it. I am encouraging him to reach out… to garner more resources. To work a little harder. As things start to go back to “normal,” he is back to work mostly full time for example, old bad habits start to creep back in and he is not aware of them. Unfortunately, those old bad habits hold a lot of triggers for me. We also talk a lot about what I need and what allows me to feel safe now, and sometimes he just disregards me, my needs, forgets? Whatever. He’s trying… just not sure if he is trying quite hard enough. I liken it to my healthy eating/exercise habits. Whenever I do that, he laughs and recognizes his problems and the way he treats me are so much bigger than that, but I think he appreciates me trying to understand. 🙂 ❤

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      • You know, as hard as they try, men don’t seem to understand us and what we need. It’s not really BE, it’s men in general. Sometimes it feels like we are dealing with a completely different species. Even in the best relationships, I’m sure women feel like this. Sometimes you just won’t feel understood or acknowledged the way you want to be. This is when blogging, friends, outside interests, really come in handy.

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    • Yeah, he just doesn’t realize it is a game. It is his life, the way he has nurtured it and developed coping skills and yeah he has been doing it since he was young. I do point out quite often how not normal his behavior is and that does not make me feel good, and I’m sure it doesn’t make him feel good either. We talked a lot yesterday about how if he wants to live inside that place inside his head, and not share or evaluate how his actions affect those around him, then he needs to live alone because that behavior is not conducive to living with other human beings… at least not sensitive ones, like me, and most other women. The difference between me and the women he cheated with is I was under the impression that I had a whole, loving, caring partner who wanted to share an honest life with me. The other women were desperate and were willing to take whatever they could get from him (keeping in mind somehow in their messed up brains they thought sex = love). Either way, they way he treated all of us, was not right. I cannot live half a life, or basically live my life with a half partner. I know he doesn’t want to lose me or what we have. He is working at trying to figure this out… and I don’t want to insinuate he isn’t, but the nature of his illness is that he just doesn’t know how to do life healthily. I am not convinced he has all the resources he needs in order to do that. Because he put me in what I like to call a “box” where I am sometimes an extension of the system that broke him (again, due to no fault of my own… just how he thinks about life, i.e., these people expect too much of him… I got thrown in, even though I have always been his greatest love and biggest supporter) he is not able to hear what I say and internalize it. I feel sometimes even though what I am saying is totally heartfelt and valid, he can only hear gibberish, like the adults on Charlie Brown, wah, wah, wah… He just doesn’t know what he needs. Unfortunately, I can see it all too clearly.

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