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.”