The original 6 emotions

The original six recognized emotions are: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.

After I found out about my husbands infidelities I experience 5 of those 6 emotions on a daily basis for a very, very long time.  But we made it through all of that and I’m happy to report that my emotions are regularly in the happiness orbit most of the time now.

I got through those 5 emotions, but there is a secondary emotion that I’m not sure any relationship can truly rebound from.  It takes disgust and anger and churns it into one big, powerful & gross feeling.  That intense mixture makes you feel like you are better than the person you hold that feeling toward.  It is a feeling so overpowering that it makes you see the other person as so little and useless that it wouldn’t matter to you if they disappeared altogether.  This feeling is contempt.

During all of the pain and suffering I felt over the past 7 year I never went so far as to feel contempt.  There were times I wanted to ACT better, but that is not to be confused to thinking I AM better.  I could get angry and sad but never saw my husband as anything but an equal who is very sick and made a big mistake.


Reclaiming my safety

When my husbands years of indiscretions and lies came to surface, my trust in him, in life, in marriage, even in myself was obliterated. If you read my blog you will know that I chose to stay married to my husband after the discovery, and our relationship has been surprisingly good – dare I say rewarding – over the past year.  We have both done loads of therapeutic work and have made huge strides in overcoming the obstacles that got us to this place to begin with.  But I would be lying if I didn’t say that rebuilding trust is happening at a staggeringly slow pace.  In fact, the more time goes on, the more that I may be digressing in this area of my recovery.

I have a fear that the more sobriety days my husband has under his belt, the closer we are getting to experiencing a slip.  Addicts can get comfortable in their routine and can get lazy in their diligence to their program work.  They can get overconfident about the risks they can handle.  How often has an alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in a year thought it was ok to go play pool at a bar…not intending to drink…thinking he can handle the temptation…only to end up in the gutter.  All humans love to fool themselves…but add an addict gene in the mix and look out.

I have made a list of boundaries that my husband is happy to respect.  These boundaries are in place to try to make me feel safe and eventually should lead to trusting him again.  However, when I have to implement one of them I feel a multitude of unwelcome emotions.  Take for instance checking his whereabouts on GPS.  Here are the feelings I go through when I push the “find my iPhone” button:

– before pushing the locate button I am triggered and feeling FEAR

– as I push it I feel ANXIOUS about the results I may get (is he really at a lunch meeting…or at a strip club?)

– when the GPS shows he is where he should be I feel ANGRY that I am in a relationship where this kind of behavior is necessary

– then I move onto judging myself as WEAK that I decided to stay with a man who hurt me do deeply

– when I have to tell my husband that I looked at his whereabouts I feel SHAME that I don’t trust him

– It all culminates with a deep sense of RESENTMENT & HUMILIATION

I have not always shared with my husband when I go through this cycle of emotion.  Usually when I look at the GPS (sometimes 10 times a day, sometimes once a week) he is in a safe place and I block the experience from my mind.  But I will start sharing with him when I feel the need to check up on him.  Together we can explore the triggers and emotions that are set forth.  It is his behavior that forced me to put these safety measures in place, so he should be a part of and bear witness to the sad and unfortunate cycle of my experience.

I realize that consistency over time should start to lift some of my fears and hopefully someway, someday I will begin to trust, at least a little bit, once again.

If it’s hard for me to stay true…it must be almost impossible for him

I have been worried more than normal lately – worried that my husband is cheating and lying again.  It may be related to my knowledge of his having multiple ‘program’ friends fall off the wagon lately.  When I hear about these men who have been acting sober but who have indeed been cheating and acting out for a long time it reminds me of the pain I went through last summer.  It was almost a year ago that I found out that my husband who I believed was sober was in fact lying for 6 of the 6 1/2 years that he claimed to be sober/loyal/faithful.  It was heart wrenching and humiliating and is a place I don’t wish to return to.  I know full well that the only way to guarantee that it won’t occur again is to leave him.  So far, I have been unwilling to do that.

The 12 step program clearly states that I can’t control his behavior.  I respect & understand why that is true.  But is it a coincidence that lately when he has a business lunch his phone goes off line or he simply doesn’t answer my calls or texts?  Could this mean that he isn’t where he claims?  It’s a frustrating question for a wife to ask – and one that I shouldn’t have to.  But I am married to a sex addict so it is the path I have chosen and these worries are a part of my daily life.  All I can do is to share my feelings with my husband and keep doing the work that has gotten me this far.

A part of my fear stems from my own occasional feelings about wanting to ‘act out’.  I know how hard it can be to resist the urge to do something that I have made off limits.  Everyone who has ever tried to diet knows how difficult it is to stay on the right path – no matter how badly you want to.  Craving is a universal feeling, but is taken to another level for an addict.  A few months ago I struggled with an almost overwhelming need to contact my ex.  I shared this with my husband and my therapist and when I succumbed to that desire I told my husband about it.  So if I, a non-addict with every desire to be a part of a faithful marriage, can stumble and give in to a ridiculous whim it seems pretty likely that my husband can do the same.  As always, all I can hope is that he can tell me before it spirals into something that neither of us will be able to manage.

Another relapse

Three sex addicts that my husband knows have relapsed in the past few weeks.  Two of them were discovered by their wives.  The third one came clean of his own accord and made the heart wrenching decision to tell his wife about his mistake.  There are many complicated issues at play within any addictive behavior, but in my opinion the man who is willing to admit his powerlessness and ask for help and forgiveness seems so much further down the road in recovery than the others.  It seems that he is truly serious about beating his addiction and understands that he can not remain sober without complete honesty.  He has taken appropriate actions to start again – a day at a time.  It’s refreshing and comforting to hear that men like him exist in this community of sex addiction.  It gives me hope that there are those who are getting sober not because they have been given an ultimatum from their spouse, but because they don’t want to live in shame and regret and isolation any longer.  

99% of the relapses I hear about are when partners discover some horrid secret by accident – this is also how I found out about my own husbands relapses.  Discovering the secret activities myself added an unimaginable degree of pain to the already devastating information.  Being cheated on is one thing…but being lied to about it is a betrayal that is most difficult to overcome.  Although this latest group of guys who went astray doesn’t include my own husband, I live with the understanding that it could be him tomorrow.  I hope that if and when another relapse plagues us that he will have the courage to tell me and together we can figure out how best to proceed.  

Liar: No longer an adjective that describes me

There were a lot of positive side affects that came with the disclosures that my husband and I both did last fall.  As hard as it was to tell the truth, and to hurt my husband deeply in the process, it is such a relief to know that he has all the information about my actions.  Finally he knows “all of me” and still loves me, still accepts me and has actively chosen to stay with me.  The same goes for the reverse.  I hated hearing about his activities and the memory is still difficult to think about.  But I am happy that I know the truth and that he can feel truly loved as the man he is – not the one he pretended to be for so many years.

The best result of coming clean is that I absolutely don’t want to dirty the water again.  If I were to cheat on my husband, I know I would tell him.  In the end, I believe he would forgive me and stay with me…regardless of that belief, I don’t want to create that kind of turbulence in our relationship. I don’t want to take us back to square one.  I don’t necessarily have all of my cravings under control, but for the first time in a long time I know that I wouldn’t hide it if I made a mistake….in that regard I am holding myself to a higher standard.  Lying isn’t an option for me right now.  That means that cheating isn’t an option.  How nice to have the freedom to do the right thing.

Hitting the nail on the head

I was watching the movie “Love And Other Drugs” with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal.  A good comedy, drama romance between a woman with Parkinson’s and a man who isn’t defined as but veers toward sex and love addiction.

I jotted down this quote that Anne’s character says to him at a pivotal moment:

“…this isn’t about a connection for you.  This isn’t even about sex for you.  This is about finding an hour or two of relief from the pain of being you.”

That’s an important quote/a vital concept to remember when you start taking the acting out personally.

Boundaries and Consequences…an addendum

My husband pointed out that he felt my post about boundaries felt a little extreme.  He made some very valid points so I wanted to clarify and expand on a couple of things.

First and foremost – a list of boundaries is not intended to be punishment for your partner/spouse.  It is a list of behaviors that you will not tolerate.   If we don’t define what we think is acceptable behavior it’s pretty shocking the things we will end up accepting.   But if we utilize boundaries to create fences around our relationships, it helps us to stay on track. Once we know where the fence line is we know that we need to stop and reconsider our direction when we get to close to the edge.

Once we clearly state the boundaries in our relationship then there can be no excuses or misunderstandings.   You see, if I never say that I’m not comfortable with my husband going to a strip club – and then he goes one day because it’s convenient and those things happen – he could just say “It was nothing – I didn’t know it would bother you” and I wouldn’t have any legitimate repercussion.  Our partners can’t read our minds so we need to be very specific.   There can be no grey area when it comes to setting boundaries, especially around sexual activities or other addictions.

It’s not intended to be an unreasonable list which turns your mate into a married version of a monk.  The list needs to be reasonable and is best created with an empathetic heart .  It’s essentially a more detailed extension of a wedding vow.  If he was willing to commit in front of God and family that he would be faithful and loyal on your wedding day – then expanding on what exactly that means to you shouldn’t be an issue.  Your boundaries could include details about money, your children, how you communicate – anything that you feel is necessary to make yourself feel safe.  It took me weeks to finalize my list – to make sure that it was inclusive and that it was fair.

Most of all, it’s not about what he does – it’s about the consequences and how you will react in response to him overstepping his boundaries.  I have been in horrible relationships in my life.  I have accepted lying, cheating, drinking, abuse – you name it.  I had very few boundaries and the ones I did have kept getting pushed away as things got worse.  The reason my ‘boundaries’ didn’t work was because I hadn’t determined the consequences if they weren’t adhered to.   You need to state very clearly how you will react if boundaries are violated.   And you have to follow through with any consequence you set – if you don’t follow through then you’ll be telling your partner that your wishes don’t need to be respected.  A boundary without a consequence is just a hope.

None of this is easy but I am lucky enough to have an exceptional therapist who guides me through this process.  Also, my husband is committed to getting & staying sober and is supportive of implementing these tools.   I am so grateful for that.