I understand why they leave

I’ve been away for a while. No real reason other than I have been busy and also dealing with some health issues. Sometimes no matter what we do, our aging bodies fail us. I started insulin last night for my diabetes, but that is a story for a different day.

Moody waters at the beach house today. The ferocious nature of those waves matches my current mood.

Today I’m talking about the spouses of cheaters. I totally get why some must walk away. It’s freakin’ difficult to stay with someone who has betrayed us. So.freakin.difficult. I know it’s incredibly heartbreaking to walk away as well. We devoted a portion of our lives to one person. All partnerships are unique, but we committed for a reason. We loved that person at one point in time. For a lot of us, we still do love that person. I know a lot of divorced people. Things didn’t work out, cheating or not. Sometimes the feelings are mutual. It just wasn’t a good fit.

A lot of times, however, the choice to walk away is made by one partner and that leaves the other person shaking their head, at the very least. Totally emotionally devastated is where it leaves a lot of us. What did I do? Why doesn’t he love me anymore? I would never hurt him in such a way. I don’t understand why we couldn’t work it out…

Well, once one person checks out, there is no fixing things. A couple weeks ago I was chatting with a contractor working on our beach house. I like to talk, apparently so does he. He’s about the same age as I am, but has two young children. He also lives on a working ranch, does extensive volunteering, and he and his wife both work. I asked him how he did it. I would be exhausted before noon. He gave credit to his extensive martial arts training, but I believe some people are just plain born with more energy. He said he also has a 30 year old daughter, but they don’t have a close relationship. He confided in me that he totally messed up his first marriage. He looked me straight in the eye and said living with and being exclusive to one person for life isn’t natural… it’s a choice. He admitted he had been a dick when he was in his 20’s. He took his wife and daughter for granted. He married too young and was selfish. Once he was divorced, he swore he would never marry again… then he met his second wife. She is 15 years younger than he is and it was love at first sight. Like soul mate kind of love. But he admitted to me that marriage isn’t about that. Even with the love at first sight/soul mate bond he felt with his second wife, he waxed poetic about how being a good partner is a choice every.single.day. That he is actively choosing to be a good and loyal partner versus being a dick. Oh, and he is totally being an active and involved parent, this time.

He acted like this was some kind of an epiphany when for a lot of us, especially women I know, being loving and loyal and making good choices every day is LIFE. Making good choices every day is how I was taught. Why commit to marriage or a long term partnership if you aren’t willing to keep your promises? That’s rhetorical.

When speaking about my sex addict husband, it’s potentially even more complicated. He’s still an addict. Lying about his secret life was actually easier than living in sobriety. The stress in his life leads him to cravings and when those cravings aren’t fulfilled, it leads to craziness. He has a lot of resources, but old habits die hard and sometimes he just plain refuses to use them. The stressors in my life, apparently, lead directly to high blood pressure and high blood sugars. Take yesterday for example. This is an incredibly busy week for us. We leave early tomorrow morning for three weeks away. I had an appointment with an insulin nurse yesterday afternoon and then we needed to leave directly from the appointment to head out to the beach house to meet a contractor. I thought it a good idea if Blue Eyes was at my appointment since this will be my first foray into insulin injections. He agreed. He was late picking me up for my appointment, very late. He had promised, committed, to not being late. I told him exactly when we would need to leave by in order to make it on time. We were late. I HATE being late, especially to appointments where there is a limited amount of allotted time and I needed that time. I could feel my whole body tensing up. I couldn’t let it go. I wanted to scream. The message he sends to me when he is late, is that I am less important than whatever he was doing. Instead of being on time for me, he is giving someone else his attention. In this case it was someone at work and he admitted that what kept him from being on time was not important. So I was EVEN LESS important. He seems to have lost track of the fact that he is responsible for his own actions. This is a lesson he seems to have missed in this whole secret sex life/discovery/recovery process. He is the man of the moment. Whoever he has put in front of him at any given time, is what’s important and his priorities are pretty messed up. So, again, back to the point of this post, I totally get why people walk away from their cheating, disrespectful partners.

My choice to stay must include ways to calm myself and be kind to myself so that I don’t continue to suffer emotionally and physically. I can always pin my dreams on the possibility that my husband will change this aspect of his behavior, but I think that would be very unwise.

Psychologically speaking…

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My younger son has suggested I go back to school and get a degree in psychology. He thinks, perhaps, that I like to talk about this situation of being married to a sex addict, a secret keeper and a liar if you will, betrayer of our marriage, a little too much? I don’t know. I don’t talk with him about it unless he brings it up. He stood by and watched the trauma for far too long. Or maybe he wants me out of MY house? He has a love/hate relationship with sharing his feelings and he does like to use me and his father as guinea pigs for his own ideas. I suggested he get a degree in psychology, but that exasperated him as I’m pretty sure he thought I was avoiding his point entirely.

I mainly “talk” about this unique/apparently not so unique (but often hidden) concept of being married to a sex addict here on the blog, but I do think about it a lot. I am not excited about going back to school at 54 years old, but I have pondered the idea quite a bit, especially after the boys graduated high school. We live very near a college with a well respected masters of psychology program and I have actually, over the years, thought about applying. I do not need another career at this juncture. I have worked, hard, since I was 14 years old. I have had a fulfilling job as COO of our company for about 14 years now, lifting our company out of the depths of the recession and helping good ole Blue Eyes make the most of who he is, and in the arena of business, he’s pretty amazing. I do, however, on many days feel like I missed my calling. I truly believe I was born to be a teacher or a therapist.

One thing I do think is true, is that therapists who have experienced the same kind of trauma that their patients are suffering from, generally speaking, make more compassionate counselors. I do not, however, think that I am ready to counsel others on surviving this ordeal. Here on the blog I am right there with everyone else. I am making my way through. I have zero education on how to professionally manage a traumatized spouse or an addict or anyone else. I do understand betrayal induced PTSD, and I do believe I understand addiction. I grew up with a sister diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder at 30 years old. Her coping method was also addiction. Until her eventual diagnosis, we all muddled through what turned out to be a whole lot of dysfunction. They say her first trauma event was when she was less than a year old. Many trauma events followed. Who knew? Not my parents, that’s for sure. Not me. I did the best I could at taking care of her for many years as we traveled back and forth between our parents’ houses. She was only diagnosed after she attempted suicide.

I have learned a great deal over the past nearly four years about betrayal trauma, but I am by no means an expert on anything. I would like to learn more about how all the experiences in our life set us up for a trauma event, or a betrayal trauma event later, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not to mention the brain function of it all. Are some predisposed to addiction or mental illness? Science lately would have us believe we are pre-wired. One of my mantras since I was in my 20’s is that along with everything else required in schooling our young, typing and therapy should be required subjects. Both for very practical reasons. I think we assume that we as humans are created with some supernatural ability to deal with all the shit that goes on in our lives without any kind of guidance. Like parenting. Wow. Our bodies are mature enough to have children when we are still children ourselves. There is no set manual or guide. Each human is an individual and deserves to be treated as such. There is a lot of shitty parenting going on out there. I’m sure if you asked my younger son right now, he would throw me in that pot. We all do the best we can, but when messed up people are raising human beings, things can get quite ugly.

I have always, at least as long as I can remember, been interested in the psychology of birth order. I do think it plays in along with many other factors in terms of how we interact with others as we grow. So I guess what I am getting at here is that I do have a pretty compelling interest in psychology. Maybe I should go back to school for that masters degree? What do you think?

Let me be clear

Blue Eyes reads this blog. Every entry, and most comments. I am always bluntly honest with my feelings, the feelings I am feeling at the time I sit down to write. Feelings change, people change (yes, they do), but I guess what I am saying is, what you read here is the real deal. This blog is my journal.

So when I write a post like my last one, and admit to being in a good place where I am now able to stroll through airports unencumbered by those feelings of being watched and followed, and I can travel to cities he visited with his affair partner and not feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach when I pass a building, or burst into tears in the middle of a restaurant, where I can actually socialize like a real person again, without feeling like I am living some kind of counterfeit life, it’s all about me. I did this. I get to take credit for my healing. Why am I making this point? you might ask. Well, last night Blue Eyes read and liked my entry. He then told me he read and liked my entry. He seemed quite happy with himself. I know he is glad for me, but I also believe he is happy for himself. The thing is though, my happiness, and my healing have little to do with him. He is far from healed and far from recovered. I was always on my own journey.

Right now I am being lazy. I am writing out my feelings here in lieu of having this conversation with Blue Eyes. He’ll read this. I know he will. I don’t want him to feel bad, but I want him to understand where I am coming from. He doesn’t get to take credit for my happiness just like he never should have felt shameful for my pain. He always needed to take responsibility for his actions and how they affected himself and others. That’s it. That’s his part in this. Partner betrayal is agonizing. Being lied to, and gaslighted, and manipulated, is devastating and life altering. Our symptoms are genuine. It’s astonishing how similar the manifestations of the betrayal on our minds and our bodies. All we have to do is read a few WordPress blogs to know we are not alone. This is real, folks!

Some people can tamp down their feelings, attempt a quick exit, move out and away from the painful relationship. But just separating ourselves from our betrayer doesn’t necessarily heal the pain. Some people would have us deny our feelings and trivialize our trauma. But betrayal induced PTSD isn’t fiction. It’s not made up. It can be devastating. Stay or go, we all make our way through a healing process. When I first started blogging, I read a blog written by a betrayed wife. She hadn’t written in a while, but I was playing catch up and her story seemed so real and current to me, especially in my own trauma. Then one day, the husband wrote one final entry on behalf of his wife. She had committed suicide. He was devastated. He completely blamed himself. I stared at the screen for what seemed like an eternity. This shit is real. I knew right then that I had choices to make about my own health and happiness. Our emotional health is a culmination of everything that happens to us and how we deal with it. It’s not just one event that leaves us devastated. It’s not just one lie, or one affair, or even one person.

I guess I wanted Blue Eyes to know…. he is very important to me. He is a piece of my happiness. If I really sit down and think about it, I love him more than any other person in my life, but my loyalty will always be to myself. That’s how life works. People come and go. I guess I have to admit, love comes and goes? We don’t have a limited capacity to love, but we do love people in different ways. When the trauma therapist asked me early on, very pointedly, whether I loved myself I think I was taken aback mostly because I had never thought about my feelings towards myself in relation to love. Love was something I bestowed on others. Being kind and loving and generous to others is important to me. It makes me feel whole. I have learned that what I send out into the Universe does not always come back to me, and I have to be okay with that.

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Where did the feelings go?

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My view the day before we left Portland.

We recently returned from a trip back east. I had a splendid time despite the fact that it rained most of the time we were in Chicago and, our flight to NYC was cancelled and rescheduled so that we had to travel on The Peacemaker’s birthday, something we didn’t want to have to do. But we did it and it all turned out fine. Our last day in NYC was wonderful. The weather was gorgeous, blue skies, warm sunshine, gentle breeze, brightly colored leaves on and off the trees, brunch at a cute little Brooklyn bistro with both our boys. And, we even returned home to more sunshine. Crisp, sunny autumn days are my favorite.

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Chicago River view before we departed our architectural boat tour and before the rain commenced in earnest.

Because of our situation, and because there is no forgetting what has transpired over the past few years, there were bumps in the road. Blue Eyes struggled in Chicago. He is deep into a new work project and that’s one of the reasons we were in Chicago in the first place: business. We also celebrated his birthday there. Birthdays have been difficult for Blue Eyes since going no contact with his family. I realize celebrating his birthday without the people who gave him life, and without the people who were there (good, bad or otherwise) for his entire youth, just sucks. Why can’t they be better people? An unanswerable question. They are toxic. Lots of people love Blue Eyes, but none of that matters when all you want is for your family to love and accept you unconditionally, and they just don’t. They’re not capable of absolute love.

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Chicago River Architectural boat tour

I wasn’t really sure what was going on with Blue Eyes while we were in Chicago other than we both knew Chicago had been one of the trips he took with the last other woman. He was thinking this was the first time we had been in Chicago since he was there with her, but it wasn’t. He took her on a business trip in 2009. He and I visited Chicago in 2011, a little more than two years pre-dday. I was completely clueless that he had been there with another woman, because I was clueless about a lot of things. Chicago was never a big deal to me. I wanted to visit, we did, that’s it. When I found out he had taken her to Chicago, the bigger deal was that he left with her less than 24 hours after we had been together on a trip. Of course his business trip with her to Chicago was pre-planned, and all about his addiction, and so no matter how lovely our holiday was, no matter how much fun we had, or sex we had, no matter how perfect everything was, he would never cancel an opportunity to feed his addiction… he lived off those trips. Chicago definitely wasn’t, in my opinion, one of his more egregious betrayals in the scheme of things. But yeah, now he is living without those trips. Without his drug and his work life has become quite strenuous the past couple months.

As we sat eating room service breakfast on the morning of Blue Eyes’ birthday at the Four Seasons Chicago on the Magnificent Mile, with a gorgeous view of the lake I might add, Blue eyes apologized for having brought the other woman to Chicago and for just plain being who he is. The Peacemaker and I just stared at him in confusion, full mouths of food gaping open. No one had mentioned the other woman. The Peacemaker and I certainly weren’t thinking of her. I mean seriously, I don’t think the Peacemaker EVER thinks about Blue Eyes’ other women. He doesn’t know much about them and doesn’t want to know anything. They represent some seriously bad shit his father did while feeding an addiction and betraying and abandoning us in the process. We were confused as to why Blue Eyes brought her up at all, especially on his BIRTHDAY! He was definitely worn down and having some phantom pains left over from his arthritis days, specifically, inflamed joints. Even he realizes these are brought on by his own obsessive thoughts and psychosomatic tendencies. He had been walking with a limp for a couple days. The last thing I wanted was to be thinking about that horrifying creature during this special time with my boys, but I also didn’t want to appear frustrated with Blue Eyes on his birthday for being open and honest and voicing his own pain. After my trying to make light of the conversation by asking Blue Eyes if she had stalked him through the streets of Chicago with her camera, which The Peacemaker said didn’t sound that strange (WHAT???), we diverted the conversation quickly away from the other woman.

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Frank Lloyd Wright home.

After breakfast we headed out to the Oak Park suburb of Chicago. We toured the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio, the Unitarian church he designed, as well as a dozen other FLW designed homes in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district.

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I love love love architecture and specifically home design, so I was in heaven strolling the leaf strewn streets of Oak Park. The strangest part of the day, however, was seeing a book titled ‘Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders’ in the studio gift shop. I was prompted to google Frank Lloyd Wright to get the full story and what a strange story it is. Of all the FLW architecture I have seen, I had never heard about his personal life or about these murders nor did I realize he was a serial cheater. I didn’t realize he left his wife and six children for his mistress or that his mistress abandoned her own husband and children in order to be with Wright. OR, that his mistress (his first wife refused to grant him a divorce for many more years) her children, and others living in Wright’s home in Wisconsin were brutally murdered by axe as the house (named Taliesin by Frank Lloyd Wright) burned around them. His personal story continued to be fraught with trouble and yet his career flourished. We learned many other details about Frank Lloyd Wright, the man, and the architect, during our tour. I found the whole thing fascinating.

Miraculously, on our last day in Chicago, after Blue Eyes finished with his business meetings, his joint pain vanished. I was certainly grateful, but it does beckon the question… how much control does he have over his ailments that they just magically disappear? While Blue Eyes was at meetings, The Peacemaker and I took a four mile walk in the pouring rain, pounded by wind, to Millenium Park and The Art Institute of Chicago. It was worth it.

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Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, at Millenium Park.

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Playing around with photography in the reflection of The Bean

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I never tire of the Van Gogh’s. The Drinkers, 1890. Art Institute of Chicago.

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And Claude Monet is my artistic hero. Cliff Walk at Pourville, 1882. Art Institute of Chicago.

Although we had a lovely time in Chicago, we were anxious to arrive NYC. Our late afternoon flight from Chicago to LaGuardia had been canceled, so we stayed an additional night in chi-town and headed to NY the next morning. To be honest, Manhattan is a bit dicier for me in terms of the betrayal trauma. New York City was the trip Blue Eyes refused to divulge until I was ready to walk out the door that fateful May afternoon in 2014. Finding out about their trip to New York precipitated my ER visit that day. It wasn’t really so much about NYC, per se, but just that he continued to lie and lie and lie and lie. I have been to New York a few times since discovery and trauma has haunted me there. This time, however, I refused to let anything bother me. Sometimes when I wake up next to Blue Eyes in a strange hotel room, disoriented for the briefest of moments, I think of him lying in a strange hotel room bed with the other woman. Those thoughts have devastated me in the past. Not any more. I have power over those visions, those conjured memories, now. I have put my foot down. I will not have the happiness in my life stolen away by memories of my husband’s bad acts.

By the time we reached our hotel last Wednesday afternoon, even though we were exhausted and I desperately needed a shower, it was The Peacemaker’s birthday and his wish was our command. He wanted Ivan Ramen. The Netflix series Chef’s Table did an episode on Ivan Orkin and his famed ramen, which we have watched twice now. We therefore took the subway from the Theater District down to the Lower East Side and walked over to Clinton Street so the boys could have their ramen. Blue Eyes’ days of pain and limping were long gone as he fairly well jogged to Ivan Ramen from the train station. To say my husband and my son are obsessed with ramen, is, frankly, an understatement.

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Triple Pork, Triple Garlic Mazemen Ramen from Ivan Ramen (all my pictures have my men gobbling up the ramen as soon as it was served, so I stole this pic off the web).

 

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In case you think I’m kidding about the ramen addiction, here is a bowl of miso ramen The Peacemaker made tonight for dinner from Ivan Orkin’s recipe. I made the homemade chicken broth from two chickens I baked yesterday, and he made the miso base and ground pork mixture. The noodles were purchased fresh from our local Asian Grocery Store. We realize this is not a healthy daily food option, but it is our fall favorite comfort food of the moment.

After our late lunch and on our way back to our hotel, we passed one of Blue Eyes’ all time favorite places, Russ and Daughters. I waited outside while they purchased their treats (fish and bagels and rugelach, etc…). I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they had purchased Chocolate Babka for me. A New York City favorite. YUM!

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That evening we had late night dinner reservations with our older son and some of his friends at Raoul’s French Bistro Restaurant in SoHo.

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We all squeezed into this cozy booth at the back of the restaurant. The place was hopping for a Wednesday night at 10:00pm.

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Most of the table feasted on Raoul’s famous au poivre steak frites (although I had the rack of lamb).

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And The Peacemaker did Totally Caroline proud by ordering the decadent profiteroles doused in chocolate sauce for his birthday dessert.

By the time we arrived back at our hotel and climbed into bed, it was well past 2:00am. The next day it was a bit drizzly out. The Peacemaker and I slept in, lounged around and read books while Blue Eyes took meetings all over the city. Not being alone in a hotel room sure helps take my mind off any unsavory happenings in the past.

Friday, The Peacemaker and I met his older brother + girlfriend for delicious Dim Sum in Chinatown.

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Dim Sum Go Go

Then we headed uptown for a nice afternoon visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim Museum where we took in the Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World special exhibit. Very interesting indeed. I love the Guggenheim’s permanent collection. Each time I am there they have a different selection of paintings on view with an exceptional collection of Kandinsky, Gauguin, Picasso, etc…

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It was a gorgeous night in New York City. We then met up with Blue Eyes at Grom Italian Gelato. Totally Caroline introduced me to Grom Gelato in Paris and I must say, I adore it!!! Especially the whipped cream… you must order it with the whipped cream!

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I never stray from the chocolate!

Sadly, we had only allotted a week back east and our flight home left us barely enough time to head over to Brooklyn and have brunch with our NY Boy. We had also forgotten that on check in, our hotel had given us a half dozen or so free drink tickets for the bar, so before leaving our hotel, Blue Eyes and I order iced tea and lemonades (we don’t drink much alcohol) and The Peacemaker ordered himself a Moscow Mule.

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Not a pivotal part of the trip, but I thought this drink was just so pretty, especially the copper straw.

We had a fantastic time. We celebrated two birthdays and were together as a family. The themes of the trip were definitely family, food, art & architecture and it was a whole lot of fun.

I can honestly say that I have come to a point where I can now travel, in airports (even our home airport, a place I dreaded for months and a place where the other woman stalked me), on airplanes, in hotels, in cities my husband visited with his acting out partner, anywhere, everywhere, and not feel a bit of trauma. I didn’t actually know at first whether this day would ever arrive, but it has. I am no longer in the throes of trauma. I no longer think about them together. I no longer double over in pain at the thought of his betrayal. I no longer question my choice to stay. I no longer cry tears of sadness at what I thought I had lost.

So, where did all those trauma feelings go? I don’t know, but they are no longer haunting me, and for that I am grateful.

Introspection

Since our blogs are formatted a little differently, I’m not re-blogging, but I am sharing an article that Rac (Life After His Affair) linked to on her blog this morning.

Before You Cheat On Her Know This

This piece is beautifully written and will speak, in some way or another, to all of us who have been betrayed. But, the author is theoretically speaking to the cheater. She is telling the cheater what will happen to his partner if he cheats on her. And no doubt, what does happen, what has happened to us (since a lot of my readers are betrayed wives), reiterated in the words of this article, will resonate deep.

Before you cheat, know this:

It will teach her to hear “You are beautiful,” as “but not beautiful enough.”
It will teach her to hear “You are brilliant,” as “but not brilliant enough.”
It will teach her to hear “You mean the world to me,” as “but one person is not enough.”
It will teach her to hear “You are the love of my life,” as “but I don’t love you enough.”

Much of the deep pain we endure post betrayal is universal. You will break her… shattering of glass… She will not sleep… She will not eat… She will not smile… She will cry… She will curl into a ball… She will rage… She will be numbed… You will cause her to hate… You will burn her world to the ground.

Unfortunately, as compelling as her words are, and as accurate her description of what we go through, what I have gone through as well, these words nor any others, in my opinion, will stop a cheater from cheating. From what I have learned during this process, for the most part, the reason a person cheats often has absolutely nothing to do with their partner and everything to do with what is broken inside them. They are weak and driven by selfish desires to use a short term fix on a gaping hole inside that has been growing for many years, often since childhood, and rationalizing will always be the precursor to cheating. They are neglected, their wife doesn’t love them anymore, the marriage was already broken, they didn’t think the wife would even care, my personal favorite–the wife is never going to find out so she will never be hurt. Practical words about how painful betrayal is on the betrayed spouse will not be enough to fix what is wrong with a person who is vulnerable to cheating.

I do not believe that everyone has it in them to cheat. I actually will never believe that. I also don’t believe that most of us married scoundrels, flagrant cheaters or that we knew our husband had the propensity for such hurtful behavior. I, for one, never would have married my husband if I thought so (regardless of what the media or even some therapists would have us believe). Their reasons are unique, but their rationalizations are the same. They will turn a blind eye to the potential consequences of cheating because they never learned how to self reflect. They’re going to go for the easy fix versus the introspective evaluation of why they are even contemplating a relationship outside their marriage. Why are they breaking promises and commitments so flagrantly? In the case of cheating men, they often did not learn how to be open and honest about their emotions and their needs. They don’t even actually know that their own brokenness is the reason they seek a path they never thought they would be on. It is so much easier to blame someone else. SO.MUCH.EASIER. So then it becomes about us, or the other women. The secretary came on to them. She threw herself at them. She doesn’t carry the baggage of home, family, of commitment. And we all know what we have been accused of during the discovery process. Not only will the cheater not be able to absorb the level of pain we endure from the betrayal, they will attempt to turn their bad deed around on us. Yes, true introspection is the key. If the cheater is left alone, with no one to blame, and no one to tell him it’s okay to be unfaithful, what then?

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Introspection

written by: Rajashree

In the silence of night,
Taking a stroll through the aisle of memories;
Saw a brave loner, a fighter,
Who’s an ardent, respectful lover.
With a smile muttered to self
What an Imperfectionist!
Instantly the surrounding air whispered—-
even I’m not Absolute.
With lessons gained by mistakes
And some plans in mind;
I continue the journey halted far behind…..

In a perfect world, everyone would read Kirsten’s piece (or another like it) before partnering up, absorb it, and remember it their entire relationship. Unfortunately we live in a far from perfect world and people rationalize the hell out of bad behavior every day. People will continue to cheat and partners will continue to be devastated by the betrayal.

You will burn her world to the ground, but she will pour her heart into becoming the best person she can be—and this time, it won’t be for you; it will be for her.

I will never be as innocent and trusting as I was before, but I will also not be as naive or vulnerable. I have lost something that can never ever be replaced. In ways I am weaker than I was before, and in other more important ways, I am stronger, and unfortunately, the cheating, the betrayal, my husband’s secret life, was never about me. Because if it was, I wouldn’t be here right now. I deserved loyalty, honesty, and respect. This was never about me.

Purging

Yesterday afternoon I looked at my Instagram account and realized I had nearly 3,000 photos posted. What? Too many photos. I went back to the beginning and started deleting. When I first loaded the Instagram App and began using it, I had no idea what I was doing. There were multiple pictures of the same thing (mostly from walks we took, and pics of the pets) using different filters and borders. I have always loved Instagram for the filters and generally posted the pictures elsewhere, on Facebook, on my old blog, on this blog, etc… As I scrolled through hundreds of photos (I joined Instagram in 2012), the images became less generic, and more personal.

There were pictures of trips we took, special events, our 25th wedding anniversary, my niece’s birthday party, the beginning of my never-ending selfie stage, hundreds of photos of the animals, the kids, travel, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hawaii, Paris, Hawaii again, Paris again, flowers, and of course every single stage of the building of our dream beach house.

Along with all those photos were memories. Memories of dropping The Peacemaker at college in Maine… and then taking a drive to a lake in Bridgton and just sitting there staring out at the tranquil waters with the melancholy that came with the realization that we were now, truly, empty nesters. We would be going home alone, to a quiet, childless house. Our years of watching our boys take their first steps, hit their first baseballs, go to their first dances, graduate from high school, were over. That part of our life was complete.

There were pictures of the bushels of golden plums we picked one summer weekend and then jars and jars of the finished spiced plum jam I was so proud of. There were pictures of my 50th birthday trip to France, our rented flat in the Marais, the flowers I handpicked at the local fleuriste, gathered up, and displayed on our pretty french dining table for the duration of our stay. So many photos, so many memories.

I took all those photos because I wanted to remember something. I wanted to remember those great times, and happy places and the smiling faces of my favorite people. After dday I made my Instagram private. After finding out the other woman had obsessively accessed all my social media, I didn’t want her seeing any part of my life anymore. Eventually I got over it. I don’t want to be the kind of person who runs and hides under a rock. I love to follow and share and I think for the most part, social media is fun. I made my Instagram profile public again.

As I looked through all the photos yesterday, other memories flooded my conscious. That time we dropped our son at college, and held hands by the lake in Maine… yeah, that was the time Blue Eyes arrived home alone and brought the other woman to our house. That gorgeous golden plum jam, well, while I was sweating over a hot stove preserving jar after jar for my family to enjoy, Blue Eyes was off with the other woman, a quickie at her house. And that photo of Blue Eyes and his sister in Paso Robles, all smiles and happiness, was taken only minutes after Blue Eyes was texting with the other woman and claiming it was business.

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The difference between my prior shopping trips to Pain-ville, however, is that this time, there wasn’t a sick pit in my stomach. There were no tears, no aching heart, no nothing. Just the acknowledgement that those things did happen, but those places I experienced were not changed. They were glorious. That day in Versailles with our little family, magical. The gorgeousness of the hydrangeas in my front garden, not changed, still gorgeous. That fucking spiced plum jam, still delicious. My children, my pets, my husband, still the center of my life. A good life. A great life.

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Dear Addiction, This is Goodbye

I’m sharing here a blog post written by an addict. The words, Vanessa’s adaptation of them, all of them, mesmerized me and will resonate with me for a very long time. Addiction is a powerful beast. But I have to be totally honest. As I was reading the words, I was picturing Blue Eyes’ last other woman. I was definitely picturing her as the monster who stole my husband’s time, who colluded and conspired against me, who stole something that belonged to me, who talked badly about me, stalked me, demonized ME. I pictured being able to stand in front of her and read the words written here and tell her, she is the devil.

Ah, the last vestiges of trauma have me in their grip today. I know this woman, as horrible as it was for her to use me as her excuse for behaving really badly with my husband, drawing Blue Eyes into her web over and over, and then mercilessly stalking and blaming me, is not responsible for my husband’s addiction. She was merely a prop. She was bad, but she doesn’t hold that kind of power. Addiction holds that power, but I know Blue Eyes is stronger than his addiction. I know Blue Eyes is stronger than the past that shaped him.

Free to Be V

Dear Addiction,

I am writing to inform you that I have found another way. I have built a new life, one much different than I have ever known before. A life that brings me the most honest joy and love; a life I don’t need to escape from.

What I am trying to say is…our relationship has run it’s course. This is the end.

I know what you are thinking. That by writing this letter I have found myself in a moment of weakness, but it is actually quite the opposite. You see, I am strong today. Much stronger than I ever thought I could be. Strong enough to recognize that it was you who took everything away from me. It was you who encouraged me to put my substance first and my family last.

I used to spend so much time thinking about you, and I am not so sure that…

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My relationship with s-anon

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What is my relationship with S-Anon? Well, basically, I don’t have one. In a perfect world my husband would have worked with his therapist, told the therapist the truth about his secret sex life, all of it, and then worked with the therapist on a way to more safely inform me of Blue Eyes’ sexual compulsivity. I would not have had to endure the traumatizing phone call from the vindictive other woman. I wouldn’t have had to sit and wonder for days (weeks, perhaps, months even?) whether my husband was merely a cheater who had been caught and was now pretending to be remorseful. I never believed he was hateful and mean. I was totally devastated. An expert could have explained, to both of us, how Blue Eyes fit the pattern of a sex addict, and about recovery. Instead, there was a horrifying phone call, immediate trauma, and many lonely days.

Within hours of finding out about Blue Eye’s secret life, I scoured the internet for answers. But, because I was traumatized I wasn’t looking for support groups or therapists for me, I was voraciously reading about why people cheat, while tears streamed down my face and puddled on my desktop, day after day, night after night. I had no real knowledge of sex addiction (and at the time had no idea Blue Eyes was a sex addict) other than tabloid headlines. All I knew was that my husband was messed up. He wasn’t who I thought he was. Period. The articles and blogs written by other women, mistresses if you will, that I stumbled on were so destructive to my already fragile psyche. My spirit was broken. My self esteem, obliterated.

Once Blue Eyes was officially diagnosed and he embraced that diagnosis, because without him acknowledging he had a serious problem that only he could address, our relationship was doomed, I set forth researching sex addiction, and whoa. Even as recently as January 2014 sex addiction deniers were rampant on the internet (still are, of course). So much of what I read simply made the whole thing out to be a joke, an excuse for bad behavior. Or, it was demonized. At that point I realized I could only focus on me, my marriage, and the experts who were helping us define our new reality. At first, my desire to save my marriage, and to believe my husband (that he hated himself, felt shame every day, and regretted every minute of his secret life) were based on fear. The fear of losing my best friend, and the fear of my life changing drastically from what I had known for thirty years. But that fear eventually did morph into belief. Belief that my husband is a good guy who was damaged as a child and who chose addiction to cope when he wasn’t even old enough to understand how damaged he already was, and as the addiction grew, it became unmanageable for him. I know he didn’t want to be hurting people, but hurting people was part and parcel to his survival. It just was. Hurt people, hurt people. Not always, but often.

My first introduction to the term S-Anon was while reading a book very early on in this process that had been recommended to Blue Eyes by his therapist. The book was Patrick Carnes’ ‘Don’t Call it Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction.’ Patrick Carnes basically coined the term ‘sex addiction.’ In other words, Carnes was the first to attribute specific sexual acting out behaviors as addiction. This next bit is straight out of Wikipedia…

Carnes attributes the source of the addictions to the addict’s belief system. He believes that a fundamental momentum for the addiction is provided by “certain core beliefs” that are wrong or incorrect. “Generally, addicts do not perceive themselves as worthwhile persons. Nor do they believe that other people would care for them or meet their needs if everything was known about them, including the addiction. Finally, they believe that sex is their most important need. Sex is what makes isolation bearable. If you do not trust people, one thing that is true about sex – and alcohol, food, gambling, and risk – is that it always does what it promises–for the moment. Thus, as in our definition of addiction, the relationship is with sex – and not people.”

Patrick Carnes has basically nailed Blue Eyes to a tee in his description above regarding core beliefs. Blue Eyes truly believed he was worthless (he was trained to believe this by his parents, and he was neglected from infancy) and he flat out said to me on discovery day, “if you knew the truth about me, I knew you couldn’t love me anymore.” That was the belief (he totally believed it) that he told himself each and every day in order to keep his addiction going. And, even though it took me many months to understand this… and some days I still wonder, he had no real relationship with the people with whom he was having sex. He needed his drug, his drug escalated to sex with women outside our marriage, and he was willing to do and say anything to get that drug. I do believe he also liked the ego stroking, it temporarily filled a big gaping hole in him, but he never truly believed it. His secret sex life was built on lies and deception. How could any of it truly fill his deepest needs? (rhetorical question)

Now, I don’t agree with all of Carnes’ old school ideologies regarding partners of sex addicts, but I’m absolutely not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I believe Carnes is spot on in his assessment of the addict. In my opinion, Carnes’ attitudes towards partners of sex addicts harkens back to Alcoholics, AA, and Al-Anon. Partners, families, and friends of alcoholics often witness extremely destructive behaviors from their addicts each and every day. They live in fear and isolation and many times severe abuse. I do acknowledge that this sometimes happens in SA families as well. Al-Anon is a place of refuge.

Al-Anon/Alateen literature focuses on problems common to family members and friends of alcoholics such as excessive care-taking, an inability to differentiate between love and pity and loyalty to abusers, rather than the problems of the alcoholic.[5] The organization acknowledges that members may join with low self-esteem, largely a side-effect of unrealistically overestimating their agency and control: attempting to control another person’s drinking behavior and, when they fail, blaming themselves for the other person’s behavior. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Anon/Alateen)

Carnes discusses in his books and in interviews this concept that partners of sex addicts are co-dependent, that they are aware of the sexual acting out behaviors of their partners (I like to call this hindsight is always 20/20) and that often times they are out of control, and/or try to control the behavior of their addict (I call this trauma). In the wives of sex addicts group I attended early on, two of the wives had been married for over 30 years. They both knew early on in the marriage that their husband was cheating on them. They looked the other way. They believed somehow it was their fault that their husband sought other women. Once their husbands were diagnosed, decades into their marriages, they found solace and healing in S-Anon. There were also wives who sought out S-Anon because it was the only place they could find women who understood what they were going through. I get that too. Unfortunately, the level of my trauma at the time, coupled with my particular personality, would not allow me to embrace an organization in which I was expected to work the 12 steps myself.

Here are the 12 steps adapted for S-anon (source: sanon.org):

The Twelve Steps of S-Anon

The Twelve Steps of S-Anon are the foundation of our personal growth and recovery. The principles of the Twelve Steps are universal, applicable to all of us, regardless of our various beliefs. When practiced as a way of life, these spiritual principles help us to meet and rise above all difficulties in our lives – not just those associated with living with or having lived with sexaholism. Here are the Twelve Steps we follow which are suggested for our recovery:

  1.  We admitted we were powerless over sexaholism – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I had a commenter come on this blog a couple years ago and in a few different comments she not so subtly suggested I should start taking responsibility for condoning my husband’s behavior over the years. She is a big proponent of S-Anon and was convinced that I had subconsciously (or even consciously) known all along that my husband was cheating on me and I was in denial and that the 12 steps would help me with that. This was a huge turnoff to me. Her blog was littered with self hate, self blame, and co-dependent rhetoric. Needless to say, this did not help with my opinions of S-Anon. I do, however, realize this is one woman, and one woman’s behavior, and one woman’s opinions. I did not know my husband was cheating on me, I have never truly (outside of my sexual addiction induced trauma) blamed myself for my husband’s behavior, nor do I believe my trauma responses were indicative of me being a weak-minded person trying to control my husband’s “bad” ways. And in fact, at this point, I think what was going on subconsciously was that I always knew Blue Eyes was co-dependent. He believed that without the approval of his parents, he was nothing. Period. Blue Eyes’ parents don’t give approval. Period. I had no idea the implications of his kind of childhood wounds and that kind of co-dependency.

Even reading the 12 steps now, today, approaching four years of enlightenment and healing, I cannot rationalize working those steps for myself. They just don’t jive with who I am and my belief system and what I have been through. And at first, in full on trauma, I couldn’t imagine being in a room full of people acknowledging that I somehow needed to make amends to someone for the sheer torment I was going through. I understand Anon groups are more than just working the steps with a sponsor. I understand that when people find the right meeting for them, it can be quite healing and lasting friendships are made. I do get this. I just instinctively knew it was not the place for me. We all have choices. I merely wish partners of sex addicts had more choices. I know women who embrace S-Anon, I know women who have betrayed partner and wives of sex addicts groups that work well. I know women who have embraced religious-based healing programs. As I have said many times here, trauma therapy, this blog, a healing seminar for betrayed wives, making friends who have this in common, and building on those relationships with activities that have absolutely nothing to do with infidelity and trauma (like trips to New Zealand, and Paris) have helped me heal.

The Sexaholism version of these 12 steps that my husband worked for two years and which he continues to fine tune, embellish on if you will, work for life, have been a lifesaver. “Working the steps” provides immeasurable healing for Blue Eyes. Even though he does not associate with a God (the meetings he attends are non-religious), and he has been able to define a higher power for himself that has absolutely nothing to do with religion, finding his spiritual center is something he now realizes he desperately needed. Recognizing he was hurting people and hurting himself and acknowledging at his core that he is part of a bigger universe to which he needs to give more, and take less, has been critical to his owning his past. He’s still working on living life without shame, and addressing his childhood wounds, but that is what therapy is for. I think he might say the friendships he has made in 12 step bring him the most contentment and joy in the aftermath of his awakening, but that is purely my observation.

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In the end, reaching out is good. Having a place to go where people understand and embrace us for who we are is good. Being part of a loving community is good. No matter how we all find that place, finding it is part of the journey.

Hiding behind ‘sex addiction’

I have seen this phrase, or some form of it, many times, written on blogs, in articles, and even in books. I have heard it spoken, by sex addiction deniers, by partners, and by therapists. I understand. Those two words, separate or together, seem to harbor feelings that take us to places like fear, trauma, denial, suppression, confusion, and disgust. We tend to want to disrespect and pass judgment on things, behaviors, or frankly people, we don’t understand. We don’t want to associate with a diagnosis that has a negative reputation. We live in a society in which the press and social media would have us believe it is okay to judge everything and everyone without knowing them, without having much more than a titillating headline or a controversial selfie.

Sex addict is a label. There are other words and phrases to describe a person who compulsively uses sex as a way to deal with thoughts, feelings, and emotions instead of facing them head on. Sexual compulsivity can be driven by feelings of abandonment, entitlement, shame, loneliness, and on and on and on. Often times people who act out sexually, hide sexual behavior, deny sexual behavior, suffer damaged self esteem due to serious family dysfunction when they were young including emotional abandonment or sexual molestation, amongst many other pathologies.

The important factor here is not how others judge us, or even whether others judge us, but in fact the key to overcoming sexual compulsivity is bringing it out into the light, acknowledging when we need to change our behavior, stop hurting people we love, and stop hurting ourselves, and get help. Help can be therapy, it can be rehab for repeated behaviors we have trouble controlling on our own, it can be a spiritually based recovery program through a church or other religious organization. Many people choose the 12 step recovery route. The nice thing about 12 step is that recovery is adaptable. Those that fully embrace a 12 step group that works for them understand how versatile the program is. And for the record, 12 step is not about placing blame, it is about accepting responsibility. I have heard so many strange things about 12 step from people who have never been to a meeting, or who somehow convinced themselves that “they’re not like THOSE people.” If the program is to work, people need to make it their own and not use excuses for why it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because the person who needs it didn’t work it. And that applies to all forms of recovery.

The biggest obstacle to healing, in my mind, is denial. Denial comes with the territory. The person with the compulsive sexual behaviors has most likely been denying to themselves that they have a real problem, or they believe they have control over their behavior. They can stop whenever they want. That’s denial. Control is a big deal to most addicts. Having control over compulsive behaviors, however, is the definition of being out of control.

Control is acknowledging we have a problem. How we decide to deal with that problem is an individual journey. We don’t have to accept a label, but we do need to get help. And passing judgment on someone else’s healing doesn’t really help the situation for us or for anyone else. Partners of people with compulsive sexual behaviors have said to me that their husband was hiding behind the sex addiction label and they weren’t really an addict. That they were using it as an excuse, or attending meetings because someone was “forcing” them to, a therapist, a spouse, a family member, whatever. Well, we all know people cannot be forced into changing. We have to want to change and if we have done regrettable things and hurt ourselves, our families, friends, others… any avenue that will wake us up, help us to understand the whys of our behavior and the hows of transforming destructive behavior into positive, life affirming, and loving actions towards ourselves and others, is a good thing.

One of my least favorite sayings is that 12 step is for addicts and assholes. Recovery, in all of its forms, is for people who want to change. So if we, our partners, family members, neighbors, children, whomever, wants to change maybe we should stop judging and in fact embrace recovery in all its forms. We are all fallible human beings shaped by everything in our life that preceded today. It’s okay. We can make mistakes and learn from them.

I ran across this poem the other day and it spoke to me.

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I’m breathing deep today, my friends, and embracing the beauty that surrounds me.

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My fur babies. Bernie the Blue Merle Aussie, and Lily the Golden Retriever.