How badly we crave what we don’t really have…the allure of our lovers

I am always astonished by my mom’s insightfulness.  We were speaking recently about how desire inevitably ebbs and flows in long term relationships.  During the conversation I mentioned that in my relationship with my ex-boyfriend the physical desire for him never wavered.  In fact, I said, it grew and grew over the years and when we finally broke up it was at it’s height.  I used this personal example to ‘prove’ that the curse of long term relationships to destroy passion wasn’t always the rule.

Once I finished telling her my thoughts she responded with an observation that had never crossed my rose colored mind.  She said “the passion lasted because you never really had him”.  Wow.  That is absolutely true and it took me over 20 years to learn it.

This is the ex I have written of before.  We met when I was 23 and were together off and on for 12 years.  We were serious for long stretches of time, then would break up, and eventually would find our way back to one another.  Sometimes the break up lasted a day, sometimes a few weeks, and once it lasted almost 2 years.  This is also the ex that I had an affair with once I learned of my husbands infidelity.  This “affair” was mostly emotional since he lives in another state but it had it’s physical moments as well.  I finally ended it for good almost 2 years ago.  21 years after I met him.  But my mom was right – I never really had him.  I always knew that he could walk out the door the next day.  I felt insecure in the status of our union and anxious about our future.  I never truly was able to depend on him and when I did he usually let me down.  It was that thrill and that uncertainty that kept the flame alive.

I think this is the case with most affairs as well.  We feel a heightened sense of passion because we know at any time the person is going to be pulled from our grasps.  We desperately cling to the moments we can hold them, touch them, see them.  And we are left longing for him/her in those long lonely nights when they are not with us.

This is a horrible way to live.  Always worrying that it’s the last time you will be together, wondering if the feelings are true, imagining them with their spouse and their families, knowing deep down that if they really wanted to be with us they would be.   We go days without hearing from them and our anxiety builds with each hour -then comes the thrill when they reach out again and this act calms all of our insecurities while setting us up for yet another round of passion followed by loss.  It’s a painful cycle.  We want so badly to believe in the fairy tale ending.  But at some point in our adult lives we need to accept that fairy tales are not true.  We do not have them.

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Meetings of Two – rebuilding after an affair.

My husband and I have a weekend ritual when we sit down for a ‘check up’ with one another.  During this time we talk about how we are feeling about our relationship and ourselves.  We tell one another if we have struggled with trust, anger or resentment.  We announce the thing we did during that week that most improved our relationship and on the flip side the one thing we each did that hurt our relationship.  Sometimes the conversations are stimulating and go on forever – other times they are a little lackluster and neither of us have much to talk about.   I never know where these meetings will take us.

We like to go to our favorite coffee shop for these weekly discussions – it makes it feel more like an event or a date.  Since we had brunch plans with friends later this morning we decided to hold this weeks meeting at home, giving us the perfect opportunity to watch Esther Perel’s TED talk entitled “Rethinking Infidelity” about why people cheat.  This talk was such a great catalyst to conversation.  Both my husband and I found so much of what she said to be of interest.  It raised incredibly interesting points and questions and led to another very honest discussion about my husbands addiction-related infidelities as well as my own affair and what the two had in common.   We talked about how we felt during and after our trysts, we talked about the fantasy aspect of our actions, we talked about the power of our disclosures, we talked about anxiety and longing and desire and regret and sex.

Seeking out sources of smart, insightful information is so important when confronted with an issue such as marital infidelity.  I have gotten a lot of help from books and therapists in the past – but somehow, Eshter Perel can cut to the quick in a riveting 20 minute video.  If you haven’t already seen it, and are in a relationship, it’s worth watching.  I highly recommend watching with your spouse and see where the conversation takes you.

We are only as sick as our secrets

Yesterday, I shared a full disclosure with my husband about the ways that I had acted out in response to his cheating.  I wrote about the fear I had going into the disclosure in my post “the more you look the more you see”

https://recoveredwife.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/the-more-you-look-the-more-you-see/

It was exactly as hard as I knew it would be.  I was crying before we even entered my therapists office…and sobbing uncontrollably by the time we settled in and were ready for my confession.  Somehow I managed to read aloud the list of the sins I had committed.  I didn’t expect my husband to be so surprised by what I had done.  It makes me wonder if a man’s sixth sense differs from the female’s sense.  I always knew in the back of my mind that he had acted out with this one or that one – but he seemed utterly shocked by the things I told him.  I had told him bits and pieces over the years about how I had reached out to my ex-boyfriend for comfort when I felt scared, hurt and alone.  He knew that I emailed and texted with my ex, he even knew we talked about reuniting if we had ever decided to divorce.  He knew all of that for all these years but apparently he never considered that maybe I had seen him.  Perhaps he was just in denial all that time, or maybe he was so caught up in his own acting out and addiction that what I did just wasn’t on his radar.  Or maybe (and this hurts) he thought I was better than that.

It’s amazing to me that I was lost for so long – and was willing to do things that so severely went against my nature.  I said to my husband yesterday that in those fearful and lonely moments I wanted to return to someone who knew me before I was changed by my husbands betrayal.  I think that hit the nail on the head.  The discovery of my husbands betrayal changed me into someone I didn’t even recognize.  I started to dress differently, act differently, walked on eggshells, stopped being sexual.  I buried myself under a pile of shame.    When I saw my ex it was like a turning back of time to a person I used to be before I married an addict, before my world crumbled down in front of me.  But all of that was a fantasy.  We are who we are because of our life experiences.  I could spend the rest of my life with the ex and not really ever be that carefree girl that I was before I was betrayed.   My husbands behavior changed me in dozens of ways – as I’m sure my disclosure with change him.  But here we are – for better or for worse – supporting one another in our own personal recovery.  We are moving beyond…