Longing

Longing – that ‘strong, persistent desire or craving, especially for something unattainable or distant’ according to dictionary.com is a soulful word, a haunting word and one that I don’t think I used to understand, really.

I hear my mom longing for the days of her youth…days where she remembers men were genteel toward women they cared about and toward those they didn’t. Days where women blushed at the utterance of a cussword and there were no commercials on television about how to enhance your sex life. Days where everyone gathered around the one small TV screen together to watch the one show that aired at the one time, and were just as likely to gather around the radio to listen to something. Mom longs for the days of phone operators who connected you to whom you wished to speak, and laundry was done only one day a week, period.

PhoneOp

I lived most of my life as such a practical girl, and longing – consciously – really didn’t play a huge role. No, I was determined to live with intention, to make my future be what I wanted through hard work and sheer grit. I was confident that I didn’t need to long because I could make it happen for myself, and for my family. Seeing that a longing is unattainable or distant, it had no place in my life.

Yet it did, was a driving factor that resulted in my staying in a marriage that was missing the mark for deep intimacy, for unity/oneness. Staying in a marriage enabling (how I have FOUGHT AGAINST THIS LABEL) my addict-HUSBAND, believing that tomorrow would be different and if I just handled this situation and if I only reacted this way and that this prayer or that marriage seminar or this discussion would make the difference.

What I see now was I had enormous longings. I longed for intimacy and communion of the souls. I longed for a family that honestly valued each other, that would meet at the heart level and care beyond perfunctory events and routine cards and empty words. I longed for adventure bridled with stability, and vision tempered with reality. I longed for deep, committed relationship. I longed…for love…

love

I couldn’t let myself see that I longed for these things, and that I was not likely to get them, really, really, really get them. Ultimately, I discovered I didn’t believe I could get them – not because I had married a guy who was only willing to connect so far, to go so deep. That was the obvious answer and the one I clung to until DDay forced the journey deep into my own soul. The real answer, the real reason I ACCEPTED and stayed married to a man who gave me only part of his soul was because I didn’t believe I deserved love like this. Neither did he.

We were two broken souls who stuffed deep down their heart longings to live in a half-baked present that was wrapped in a beautiful package. It was like we could stay one step ahead of our hearts by having it all on the outside even though our insides were so sad. Nearly everyone…and I mean EVERYONE (other than our children) who knew us, lived with us, was part of us thought we had a great marriage, a great life and frequently told us that. Only a very few saw chinks in the armor because we were good – very good – at denying our longings and living on the surface of our really deep lives.

And that’s how this stuff perpetuates beyond our generation. The reason I say our children knew isn’t because we had big knock-down drag out fights, or called each other nasty names with regularity or were running out of the house, slamming doors and driving off in a huff. And it wasn’t that they consciously KNEW…it was because they knew us individually almost better than we knew ourselves, and they could see the subtle discord between the me and the him that wasn’t played out in the us and even though they couldn’t put their finger on it, IT was there.broken_family They saw we weren’t living our REAL dreams, even though we pretended to. This is what we taught them was life, was marriage. So if we had continued that way…if HUSBAND had carried out his plan to leave me for the final whore without me ever knowing his infidelity throughout our marriage, if I had gone on living in the oblivion that I had longings and they were driving me into craziness, if we hadn’t ended up face-to-face first confronted with the pretense v the reality and then each chosen to step into it….well, we would both still be longing and it would be the only picture of marriage and family that we painted for our children.

Oh, this journey. It is soul-sucking and devastating and still shocks me that I am the wife of a serial betrayer…a sex addict… It is draining and is full of places of self-blame and anger and having to work really hard not to be bitter.  I wish the triggers would stop, and that I didn’t still have questions and that I could trust unconditionally. I wish I didn’t have to deal with the voices in my head that say You Are So Stupid or He’ll Do It Again or You Should Have Left Him or It Is All Really Your Fault. I wish I didn’t have a marriage history and a new marriage history that is so much shorter than the marriage history. I wish my children didn’t have a past that was full of lies, and a stable home growing up that really wasn’t so stable.

But ironically, it is all of this that birthed my ability to find that I have longings. To be able to admit my longings. And I have found that HUSBAND now isn’t the vapid, unemotional and stale man he pretended to be for much of our marriage. His vulnerability and mine have met together in the entwining of our souls, into one flesh that isn’t just flesh but is mind and spirit too, and my longings are not so distant now. Real, honest, in-the-light beauty from such a pile of ashes.

claspedpinkies

Essential Enabler

With addictions, there are often, if not always, people around who “enable.” We all know this. We all have seen it or lived it or read about it, and I never wanted to be an enabler. I did not see myself as an enabler before I knew addiction lived in my house. I was determined to raise strong, independent children who would grow into strong, independent adults so when they forgot their lunches? They ate the proverbial peanut-and-butter-on-white-bread sandwich and drank water supplied by the cafeteria – no running the forgotten lunch to the school for this mom. Didn’t get the permission slip signed? Missed the field trip – no frantic return to school to provide the missing document for me…or how would they ever learn? No way, no chance I was going to raise an enabled child – huh, uh. Not me.

PBJ

Except there was one little problem in my plan.

I was an enabler.

See…an enabler can look kind of good in many ways. And when you grew up in that kind of home, it is all you know…your way of life…part of your DNA. Some of the things enablers do? And that I do, NO, that I did?

  • Enablers act out of a sincere sense of love, loyalty and concern: I honestly loved HUSBAND. Adored my children. Had high levels of concern for all and was loyal – to a fault.
  • Enablers step in to protect, cover-up for, makes excuses for and sometimes take responsibility for others: Even though I worked overtime on the obvious to NOT do this, over and over and over I did each of these things. When HUSBAND abandoned me during important times (story for another blog) I made excuses and covered up. When he treated someone poorly, I took the blame – he often even made me the heavy knowing I WOULD take the blame.
  • Enablers avoid potential problems by working to keep peace…doing whatever they can to avoid conflict thinking this will actually solve problems: Funny that I could see this so clearly in my own mother and determined not to do it…yet upon close examination, I did the same. You know, avoiding subjects. Not saying how you feel to avoid conflict. Curbing your ask to make it more palatable. Yup, I was a master who learned from a master.
  • Enablers have a hard time expressing their feelings, often keeping emotions inside: This one was tricky, because I acted like I had emotions. However, I stuffed my real feelings so deep inside that I didn’t even know what they were. I was STRONG. I was EMPOWERED. I didn’t need anyone or anything. Of course, that girl was impenetrable but really deeply wounded, deeply needing to be cherished and valued and loved.
  • Enablers minimize situations thinking “the problem” will get better later: Over and over and over. Again, I acted as if I was facing issues. HUSBAND and I went to counseling from time to time. We went to marriage classes and family seminars and family groups and all that stuff. But the real meat of pain and sources of confusion? Just couldn’t quite go there even though I fooled myself into thinking we had and were.
  • Enablers tend to lecture, blame or criticize the person they are enabling: This really doesn’t need more explanation. Other than it is tied to protecting, covering-up and making excuses. After doing so, HUSBAND would get a lecture to which he’d respond “I’ll do better.”
  • Enablers sometimes take over the responsibilities of the person they are enabling. They will cover up for them, pick up their slack and come to the rescue – all to minimize consequences: Again…doesn’t need much more explanation. But if this is you, then you know you likely pay the bills, select and purchase the presents – even for his family, explain to others why you forgot the event/party/funeral/etc, complete the expense reports for HIS company/work, write the reports for HIS company/work…the list goes on. Interesting, though, how HUSBAND was fantastic about planning hunting trips, fishing trips, fucking trips…didn’t need any help there…
  • Enablers are good at enduring…convincing themselves that this, too, shall pass: A life mantra…
  • Enablers believe in waiting…often believing God will take care of this: He has a plan and all that…
  • Enablers give one more chance. Then another one more chance. Then another one more chance… Story of my life with HUSBAND, pre discovery of the double-life.

Enabler

So DDAY sucked. But it started me on a path of self-discovery like no other event or time before. My healing and journey and changes have been important no matter the outcome or state of our marriage. This…THIS is what I had to recognize, to grieve, to let go of and to change about myself. NOT to save my marriage…to save me. Whether I stayed married to HUSBAND or moved on, this would follow me unless I learned to see it, to purge it, to learn new ways to approach old things. I had to find my voice, a healthy, non-manipulative voice that could recognize and care for me – share my needs and hopes and wishes and dreams and allow myself to feel – DEEPLY – without fear. I have put that essential enabler in a grave, alongside my old marriage, and today am living in a freedom I never knew existed. The essential enabler has become a healthy human.

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Decisions

I’ve always been a fairly good decision-maker. A person who can discern between the time when deep thought and consideration need to be considered, and when it is okay to move quickly and with little thought. I don’t typically get overwhelmed or bogged down with decisions – don’t stress too much if the reds in the stripe on one material match precisely with the floral on another. Food tasting before an event is more to ensure the overall mix of selections than the specific ingredient of an individual item, and whether to attend one barre class or another is based solely on my schedule, not the teacher or the content of the class.

RedStripesFlorals

I puzzle about people who struggle incessantly over some decisions – like how to wear their hair or what shoes to buy. Those types of decisions can be so easily changed…hair grows out, there is always another pair of shoes if you return the ones you ended up not liking…

Shoes

Some decisions, no matter how carefully considered, just are beyond our ability to completely control. Like college acceptance, when – and if – to have a baby.

And whether to marry a cheater.

HUSBAND came into our marriage with a past he chose not to share. To hear him tell the story now, he didn’t think I would marry him – decide on him – if I knew who and what he really was, so he pretended to be the person that he thought he had decided to be. Except he really didn’t know how. He didn’t know how to quit being the person with the choices and habits and ways that he’d been for the years before we married, but he knew how to talk as if he was that person.

So I decided to marry him. Even though, looking back, a couple people gave me little pieces of information that I could have delved into…I decided because what I saw, and what I heard from him, and what he acted like were just the man to love me forever, to walk with me through the ups and downs of life, to help me become the best me I could, and work toward the same in himself with me at his side.

The decision was made without some important information. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and for a long time, HUSBAND kept it all from me. Within two years he had slipped into old ways, hated himself for it, and I was none the wiser. A few years later, he repeated the cycle and again, I didn’t know. I was moving along in and through life oblivious that the decisions I had made on some very important issues were based on some blatantly missing information.

liar

HUSBAND danced a lot, creating diversions to keep me from being able to discern the spaces between truth and lies. He used lots of humor, always the nice guy, and tripped over himself to make sure his lies stayed hidden. He kept me away from some people, out of sorts with others, and at bay emotionally from himself. Meanwhile I – we – kept making various decisions but only he knew what the deck really looked like. It was exhausting for him, and crazy making for me and never really satisfying for us both.

So after affair three got revealed, and the woven in lies and infidelities and porn and sex addiction and pre-marital deceptions all came tumbling down, I got to make some decisions.

These were tougher than some of the decisions in the past. But at least I was now able to understand the missing pieces in my own life, and in his.

So what did I decide? Stay tuned, and we will find out.

Reflecting on Deception

I am awake in the wee hours thinking about a large community event tonight. It is the third year my non-profit is hosting this event…the third year that we have the privilege of engaging with an amazing group of young talent to spread our message…the third year that I will be on stage to thank the leadership and to encourage thousands of youth to choose health & opportunity & freedom.

YOUTHcrowds

Through the years, HUSBAND and my children have always played an important part in events like this, assisting my small staff through volunteering to set up, shoot video & photos and any other way they can help. Three years ago, HUSBAND was fully engaged at this event despite the reality that he was also fully engaged with SW and contemplating ending our marriage and going off into the sunset with her.

That’s what woke me…thinking about the reality that he had so easily deceived me by remaining my helpful partner and doing anything he could to help us pull off a-really-big-event with a really-small-staff. He never showed me a crack in the façade, never let me see that he wished to be anywhere but there with me, doing anything else but helping me, wishing he could be with someone else besides me. He played the role so smoothly of supportive and proud HUSBAND, interacting with friends new and old, acting as if he was excited about the work my non-profit was doing, and honored to be by my side. All an act…all a deception.

I was thinking about him taking pictures that night…being on his phone to post some things to our instagram and then to send some chats to SW. That while I assumed his phone time was all about us it was really a lot about him-about them-when there was a them that wasn’t us.

SecretTexts

It is painful, and hard to remember. It just crops up inside my soul and travels up to my brain sometimes…triggers…thoughts…memories. Memories that looked one way then, but look very different now.

I remember HUSBAND telling me that during his affair with SW, he had attended another event and taken a picture of me while I was speaking. He sent it to her, and she replied back DID YOU JUST SEND ME A PICTURE OF YOUR WIFE? HUSBAND discovered then that the little whore was sensitive – she put him on silence for a few days – to punish him? Nipping at the bubble of the fantasy world she had created in which I didn’t exist appears to have really pissed her off.

This is one of the most wearying parts of affairs and recovery…and I imagine it is hard for the betrayed whether they reconcile or don’t. These moments of remembering the lies, the deception that we were so blissfully unaware of at the time, that now distort the beauty of memories…kind of like a photo that has gotten burned and the image is still there, but the edges are curled up, and a dingy layer covers it all dimming the colors and distorting the original image. That is what memories are like for me from during HUSBAND’s affairs. I want to unfurl the photo…to wipe away the tarnish…but I can’t. It remains ragged and damaged.

So tonight, I will press on. I will press on with my taped-together-heart and my very-sorry-HUSBAND and we will work on making memories that don’t need any revising. One step…forward.

OneStep10

Unexpected Response.

So by mid-June, HUSBAND had disclosed all…multiple affairs beginning 2 years into our marriage. One night stand with a hooker. An on-again, off-again and more-on-than-off-over-the-last-five-years-of-our-marriage relationship with porn and self-satisfaction. A sex addict.

Life. Life was going on, and there was no way I could stop it. I tried at first. I stayed home from work, holed in my room, vacillating between denial and tears and rage. I searched every possible record I could find, frantically gathered every evidence of the life I thought I’d lived for 27 years, laying pictures and letters and notes out and begging HUSBAND to tell me what was real and what wasn’t. And how could he do this? And how could I be so stupid? And how could these sluts, all of whom I KNEW, fuck married men? I read blogs and forums and asked question after question after question. And asked them again. And HUSBAND answered, never getting impatient, never getting angry.

I cringed at the thought and the site and the touch of the man who’d betrayed me, my children, everything I was. Yet, yet…he held some of the answers I so urgently sought…and I craved his answers, his insight, his truth. Cringe, crave. Cringe, crave.

The cause of my pain, yet the source of my healing. Wickedly cruel twist of reality.

mendinghearttakestwo

But I had to begin to step back into life as much as I had no idea how to. We signed up for orientation at our son’s upcoming college campus and booked a hotel. Son was staying on campus for the two-day process, and we dropped him off then headed to check-in. We parked. We walked through the doors. HUSBAND walked over to the clerk – and I froze. I could not move. I literally sat down on something, my suitcase at my feet, and thoughts and visions and memories flooded into my brain at such a pace there was no processing. I saw pictures of hundreds of times we’d come to hotels alone and with various or all of our children and flashes of laughter and pools and breakfasts in the dining rooms and room service and then I heard HUSBAND saying, “come on honey…are you ready…are you okay?”

I mumbled something and got up and followed him, still in some sort of haze and then we were at the room and he put the key in and opened the door and went through. I could not go in the room. I stood there, with some kind of look of terror on my face. “i…I…I just can’t go in there,” stumbled out of my mouth.

HUSBAND came back outside the door, and asked what was wrong, and what could he do, how could he help.

I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure, but I just couldn’t go through the door.

After a few moments, I put one foot in front, and the next and then I walked in. The door shut behind me, and I stood, frozen again, looking around at the predictable mid-price lodging: two beds. A dresser sporting a coffee maker. TV. Desk, chair, mirror. One single reading chair. A bathroom.

I went to the single chair, sat down and stared in front of me. And quietly began to speak and to ask the things that were now running through my mind, tears falling the whole time. Women, these whores throughout our marriage, they came to hotels with you. They walked through doors of hotels. Did they stand by you at check in? Did they have the audacity to pretend like they belonged there? Was there a moment, a hint, of shame for either of you?

woman in a hotel

Where did they put their suitcase? Did they unpack things and put them on the sink in the bathroom? What about their clothes…put them in the dresser? Hang anything up? Did they walk around naked? In bra and panties? Did they wear lovely negligees? They acted like they belonged here with you. They took my place. They had no right, they had no authority, but they did it. How could they? How could you? How could you pull down the covers and let them get in the sheets? Was there ever, even just a brief moment of shame, of some inner voice crying out NO! STOP! Did you have to quiet a voice?

HUSBAND sat at my feet by the chair. He listened, he answered, he cried. Some of the answers stung…especially the ones that told me I wasn’t even considered in those moments. By either of them. There was no shame then. By either of them.

But then he told me there was shame now. Overwhelming and horrific shame that confronts him constantly. That sitting at the feet of his broken wife was a picture of the damage he’d caused and he was so sorry and he was willing to do whatever it took to help me find peace and healing.

Everything and anything, even telling me things he didn’t think I would want to know or hear.

I sat in that chair for a long time. He sat at my feet for a long time. Eventually, I said I would get in bed, the same bed in the hotel room with the man who I thought had kept sacred vows and with whom I had kept sacred vows. I got into that bed, and laid there. And after a bit, I moved closer to HUSBAND, who wrapped his arms around me. The irony of receiving comfort from the one who had shattered me was huge for both of us. I laid in HUSBAND’S arms, and we both wept, and somehow, one more piece of brokenness with a jagged edge was put into my box – my new box – of memories. The box labeled The Other Real Life Box. One day, I hope it is filled and after I go through it a time or two or ten, I will be able to put it up on a shelf where it can gather dust.

One day.

 

Healing. For Me.

After the discovery of the porn, things began to break open in a new way. We were immediately at entirely different places…HUSBAND floating in a new reality of freedom that he had not experienced before…and me…duly and heavily burdened with even more knowledge of betrayal and inadequacy and shame and disgust.

Our therapist sensed the deep pain and inability for me to move forward, while HUSBAND was experiencing the opposite. He took us through an dastardly exercise aimed at releasing the dark emotions…ending with identifying the things I wanted to be different, and finally, the things that I could be glad about. It was excruciating…taking nearly 3 hours to get all the emotions out. I sat facing HUSBAND, holding his hands, looking into his eyes, as he asked me each of the prompting questions and anger after anger after anger after anger followed by sadness after sadness after sadness after sadness followed by fear after fear after fear after fear bubbled up out of my soul and spilled out my lips, accompanied by tears. HUSBAND’s eyes never left mine. He cried with me. He cringed with me. He received it, and heard it, and took it. And then he held me and said I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry.

I could breathe again. I could think, a little bit, again.

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Then our therapist suggested, again, that HUSBAND may be a sex addict, and we didn’t reject it this time. He recommended a couple things: another intensive weekend soon, this time with a small group of couples and coaches, and that we consider attending support groups.

Really? Support groups for perverts and their destroyed partners? This was my life now?

I didn’t want to go, but I honestly didn’t know how NOT to go. Every piece of this story was like a daytime shock-show and so completely removed from what I believed my middle-class, mundane life had been, and I still was operating somewhere between denial and hatred and denial and anger and denial and leaving and denial and staying. So I went. The meetings were at the same facility, but in different buildings, so HUSBAND parked near my building and saw me to the door then turned to go to his building. I stood outside, not sure that I could go in, or that I wanted to go in. This really wasn’t real, it really wasn’t my life. I wasn’t a betrayed wife with a sex addict husband. And what the hell was a sex addict, anyway? Isn’t that just an excuse for a man who is a fucking CHEATER? No way. And as I stood near the door, out walked a man. A man I knew. A man I knew well…my banker…and with a big smile he greeted me and asked what I was doing there?

Um. Um. Um.

I stuttered something quickly about a meeting, gave the brief smile and turned quickly – and now I was headed inside just to get away from the awkwardness of the moment.

I pushed open the door, and there were 8 or 10 women in the room, talking. Chairs in a circle, but no one yet sitting. A couple kind of glanced my way, not rudely, but didn’t say anything. So I asked one of them if this was the, uh, the, uh, MEETING. And she nodded, and said yes, you are in the right place.

I sat down.

The other women sat and 8-10 more women joined over the next few minutes. And then, they got out a book, and each person simply said their name, and a couple words to describe their feelings at that moment. I was told I didn’t have to say anything…which was good…because I just sat in my chair and listened and before I knew it, I was weeping. I heard women describe feelings of optimism and hope, and women describe feelings of despair and disgust. The facilitator taught a lesson about grief, and I continued to weep. No one ignored me, but no one embraced me either. It felt oddly right.

I looked around the room at these women…smart women…beautiful women…determined women…and all betrayed women. I had no idea, no idea that this scourge was real and present and reaching so many all around me. All total strangers, yet sisters in the deepest sense. It felt oddly good.

As I listened during the rest of the time together, I realized I was not hearing spouse-bashing or nasty stories revealing the disgusting things their husbands had done. But what I saw and heard was women determined to get healing, to get whole…women with courage, women of strength. It felt oddly safe.

That night, I curled up in bed, and realized how incredibly wrong I had been for so long about so many things. How deceived I had been about who I was, and what my life was, and even what my life could be. I had a couple flashbacks of moments…

Years before when I was required to get a vaccine because of working around kids and a breakout of a virus in our city, I’d gone to the Health Department for the shot, rather than my private doctor. The clientele was predominantly need-based/free care, and the woman sitting next to me in the waiting room told me she was there to get “checked out” because her man had ‘stepped out.’ I wasn’t even quite sure what that phrase meant, until she said that she’d kicked him out and thrown all his clothes out on the lawn, and now she was just making sure he hadn’t given her a disease. I remembered thinking, “Well, I’m glad that isn’t MY life…”thinking that my middle-class educated life exempted me from the possibility.

But it was my life, and always had been my life since very early in my marriage.

And I remembered when I heard an ad for a daytime talk show in which a man had a double-life thinking that was either completely and utterly made up bullshit or the people involved were downright stupid and ignorant because there was no way that could happen in my little pristine world without me knowing it which it couldn’t happen in my pristine world.

But it did happen in my world, and it was my world which really wasn’t so pristine and hadn’t been since very early in my marriage.

And curled up in the bed that night, I was humbled and knew that somehow, someway, I wanted to become whole. And to heal. And to be strong. And to be courageous. However the story ended, I wanted it. For me.

healingtakescourage