Telling and hearing the truth

I was talking to my friend Lisa – the one with the husband who keeps getting caught with emails and texts from some woman he has been in some way involved with for maybe a few years.  All we know is what she has found – graphic photos and highly sexual texts and emails between her husband and another woman who he knows from work.  Her husband has never come clean with any information about the relationship.  Every time Lisa finds an email or text chain he says things like this:

“That was the last time I texted her.  I called and ended if right after sending that one”

“I never have touched her – it’s only emails”

“I swear it’s over and will never talk to her again”

You get the drift.  You probably won’t be surprised to know that he has never kept his word to end it.

When Lisa found the latest slew of intense emails, I suggested that the first thing she should do is have him get a full STD check.  It’s easy to do in big cities, it can be done anonymously, but she will be putting her needs first by protecting her own health and also making him have a consequence to his actions.  It’s not therapy, it’s not divorce, it’s not a decision about anything other than making herself a priority.  Her response is that she really believes he hasn’t ever been with this woman!!

Listen…I get wanting to trust the man she is married to.  But if he has never – not once – come clean about ANYTHING – or provided a detail that she didn’t know about BY CHOICE then I really think that she needs to do a reality check.  She can’t believe a single word from him as it relates to this other woman.

It’s hard to tell the truth.  It’s also hard to hear it.  All of it raises fears.  But if a relationship is going to work, then both parties need to start coming clean about their actions and feelings – and both parties need to know it’s safe to do so.  Being honest and telling the truth are skills that need to be learned – especially after a relationship has been upended by betrayal and infidelity.  It’s not easy – but it’s doable.  And until your partner can  be honest – you best do all you can to protect yourself.

Did Ashley Madison ruin your week? What do you do now?

I was going to entitle this “did ashley madison ruin your life”.  But I can’t manage to give this company that degree of power.  That being said, I’m guessing that more than one wife found out recently that their husband had sought an affair.  That’s a tough blow for even the strongest marriage to take.  Overnight there is anger, anxiety, fear, shame, disgust and a million other emotions swirling.

I’ve written about this site before because my husband had signed up for it once a number of years ago.  From the ‘history’ it seemed pretty clear that nothing amounted from it and truth be told I think he found it incredibly boring and he likely never accessed it after his initial ‘sign up’ high.  I’m sure he found the site ‘boring’…but that’s because he spent a few years acting out A LOT sexually – visiting chat sites, frequenting massage parlors, having sex with a couple women he knew – lots of horrible and unacceptable behavior.  I think the ‘vanilla’ nature of A.M. didn’t capture his interest as much as his other activities.

So you’ve just found out that your trusted mate has an Ashley Madison account.  Now What?

I think that most men on that site fall into 3 different categories.

  1.  The most harmless category will be the one that everyone is claiming to belong to.  The “I was just curious what it was but never sought an affair”.  A prurient interest can get the best of anyone and lead them to explore a website like this.  Someone sees a commercial – can’t believe what is being advertised – types in the URL and next thing you know the company is charging a monthly fee and you just wish you had never heard of the thing.  Honestly, I think this is probably true for some people.  I believe it because I am one of those people.  I saw a billboard and thought, what is that? A movie ad? A TV show? I searched the site – was pissed off it existed – and emptied my history.  OK, I never made an ad or paid for the service but men can be pretty dumb about these things and I don’t put it past someone to go that far down the path of fantasy only to realize they have no interest in being there.  So if your husband is claiming that this is his story then maybe it is.  Ask him to share his password – go to the site – see how much activity he has and go from there.
  2. A truly repentant man.  Let’s face it – people screw up.  A man can stray for any number of reasons but it doesn’t always make him a horrible or unloving person.  Marriages get over infidelity (or attempted infidelity) all the time.  Tust gets rebuilt.  Scars heal. Take for instance a man like my husband – a sex addict who has struggled for years with maintaining honest and loyal boundaries with me.  He is fully accepting of his mistakes and seeks every day to be a better man.  He shares his ‘slips’ and takes total responsibility for his actions.  In my situation, I knew long ago that there was an AM account so when this leak happened I just made sure that we cancelled the credit card he used to use for his secret activities so the info doesn’t get into the hands of hackers.  I don’t know if my husband was one of the people leaked, or if his account was even still active (I think we cancelled it but sites like this make that really hard so it may have still been up) but it doesn’t matter as I knew all about it and he has long since been forgiven.  As hard as it is to learn that your mate was seeking sex outside the marriage… if he seems truly remorseful and willing to be truthful and honest then try to remember who he really is as a person before throwing him to the curb.  He might deserve one more chance.
  3. The last group is of course the guys who cheat but have no guilt, no remorse and no interest in changing.  This is the guy who swears it will never happen again only to turn around and do it the next day.  This person may be an addict, or a disrespectful person or no longer in love, or maybe he is just a jerk – but this is the danger area.   He probably blames everything and everyone externally and doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions.  He is the kind of guy who thinks he deserves more than the rest.  You know the type.  Maybe you are married to him.  In this case there are a lot of decisions to make – but it’s important to not delude yourself into believing his words.  If you do, chances are you will just be hurt again and again.  You may decide to stay with this person for your own reasons…children, money, familiarity…but try to protect yourself and understand that another woman/women are just going to be a part of your life.  He may change eventually – but if not, just know your own limits.

All 22 million people (if that is the current number) on that AM site aren’t horrible people.  Some are.  Try to know who you are dealing with before taking the next step.

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.

This is how progress feels. It feels like freedom.

My husband, being a sex addict, had countless liaisons with people over the years.  95% of these acting out partners were strangers.  He didn’t know their names, didn’t care who they were, and probably wouldn’t recognize most of them in a crowd.  Of course, there were a couple of women who he did know.  They weren’t close friends, just acquaintances who made it clear they had loose boundaries and he ended up having sex with them.  Never more than 2 or 3 times – the thrill would wear off for him by then and he would move on.

I’ve written before about this one person who still contacts him.  The emails from her are few and far between – maybe twice a year – but every time she reached out to him in the past it really triggered me.  I felt sick to my stomach and got angry with my husband and started to ask questions that had already been answered.  Until now.

A few days ago, my husband saw an email from this person.  she sent it late at night so he received it when he got up in the morning.  He needed to leave for work before I got up so he came to wake me.  He said “I didn’t want to wake you but I need to tell you that I got an email from that lunatic”.  At first I didn’t know who he meant, but I figured it out pretty quickly.  I asked him what it said and he said he hadn’t read it yet.  He asked if I would like to get up so we could read it together.  I rose and we read the stupid email.  It was just a sentence or two of no consequence.  I don’t understand why she writes to him especially since he hasn’t had contact with her in 2 years.  From her emails, it doesn’t appear to be romantic or with a desire to see him.  The simplest explanation is that she is afraid of him being her enemy since they work in the same industry.

I don’t know her reasons, but still she writes.  Every time she does, we read it (and delete it) together.  But one thing changed this time.  I didn’t have a negative physical reaction.  I didn’t dwell on it all day.  I didn’t feel anger toward my husband.  I saw this for exactly what it was.  I’m not talking about this woman and her motivations.  I am talking about my husbands actions.  He isn’t hiding anything from me.  He didn’t pre-read her message to find out what it said before alerting me to it.  He loves me and wants me to learn to completely trust him again.  This is the truth.

My husband has offered for me to put a rule on his account so that her emails will forward to me, or will be immediately deleted, or bounce back to her.  Anything I want.  Anything that makes me feel comfortable.  I used to want to read them for some clue about his relationship with her.  I thought perhaps there were secrets I didn’t know.  But that’s not the case.  I know everything I need to know.  I know he is sick and acted out with her and others.  I also know that he is recovering and changed and worthy of my love and trust.  I don’t need to control his emails to know all of this.

This gal may write again, she may not.  I don’t really care.  I couldn’t much control it if I did.  But, from here on out, it won’t affect my relationship with my husband if and when she does.  This is freedom.

Getting over infidelity

I thought it couldn’t be done.  All those years ago when my husband first cheated (he is a sex addict) – and then last year when I found out his sobriety was a farce.  I knew I loved him (as in cared about him, wanted the best for him) but I never thought I could be in love with him again.

It has been almost a year to the day that my world was shattered for the second time.  But unlike the first time around, I didn’t stick my head in the sand.  I didn’t expect my husband to become the man I knew he was without my support.  I did everything differently.

I would suggest to anyone who is dealing with infidelity – and more specifically with addiction – to consider joining S-Anon, to getting a therapist who is trained in addiction, to telling one or two close friends who can be trusted not to judge.  I suggest reading literature about being the partner of a sex addict.  I also suggest putting boundaries in place to help yourself feel safe.  Boundaries can include anything from insisting he get an STD check to knowing his email passwords to reviewing his progress on a regular basis.  Everyone’s story is different and everyone’s triggers will be too.  Once you can identify the things that take you off your path you’ll be able to set up nets to catch yourself and right your path.

Work and time, work and time, work and time.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, of course.  There are still certain memories that will forever make my heart stop for a moment.  Then I pull myself back into the present and take inventory of what is happening TODAY and I am able to push those painful memories away.

I am fortunate to have a husband who is a fantastic communicator and who was willing to (finally) look at the roots of his addiction which stem to his childhood abuse.  He was very strong to take the steps he needed to make things right with us.

Will my trust ever be the way it was when we were newlyweds?  No way.  But that was an unrealistic version of trust.  It was a fantasy and had no basis in reality.  His trust now is earned with consistency over time.

I am in love with and respect my husband.  And it feels wonderful.

Loving with my heart, not with my head

Try as I might to calm my active mind, I lean toward being an worrier and an over thinker.   I worry about things I have no control of and have a low level of anxiety on a daily basis.  To gain some false sense of control, I have historically thought myself straight out of all of my serious relationships in the past.  I would find a ‘flaw’ that I couldn’t accept and would walk away without another thought.

When I married my husband just 6 months after meeting him I knew the risk I was taking.  I realized that it could all go horribly wrong.  I also knew that if I didn’t marry him right then that I would find a reason not to do it.  I allowed myself to be hasty because something inside of me (inside of my heart) recognized that I had found a soul mate and I needed to commit.  Waiting the socially appropriate amount of time to marry him absolutely would have been the end of us.

I grew up in a family and an environment that didn’t really see divorce as an option.  So when shit hit the fan and my husbands addict wreaked havoc on our relationship, leaving him wasn’t really an immediate option.  The marriage certificate kept me by his side when the easier and more familiar thing to do would have been to leave.  In choosing to stay, I was challenging myself to find a way to forgive and love despite the massive obstacles.  I learned that the solution wasn’t entire up to him.  Marriage is a team effort and I needed to do my fair part.  The result of this has been my incredible growth as a person.  Growth that never would have occurred had I left.  Change is never easy, but it is one of the most vital parts of a rewarding life.

It’s hard to say what would have happened if I had left, but I have a pretty good idea:  1. I would have stayed with my pattern of developing temporary, unfulfilling relationships.  2. My fear of pain and imperfection would paralyze me to move forward.  3. I would be alone by choice.  

In my head I still recognized some very strong arguments why leaving would have been, and still could sound sensible.  But to really experience all that this amazing journey has to offer I willingly take the less obvious path – I push myself to sit with the uncomfortable parts – and I am a better, happier and more fulfilled person for doing so.    I still have many days when my brain wants to overrule my heart but I am finding more balance and more contentment every day.

Totally in love (for today)

I am in one of those wonderfully glorious moods when I am head over heels in love with my husband.  We just spent a relaxing weekend together in the desert with no tv, no phones – just the two of us in a warm and calm environment enjoying each others company. 

I love the feel of being in love.  I really do.  But the weekend is over and it’s Monday now and I know that inevitably the feeling will pass and I will return to just loving my husband – with a little bit less of the “in love” part attached.  

I know why I do this – why I back off.  I don’t want to be hurt.  I live with an underlying fear that the rug will be pulled out from under me again and when it is I don’t want to be entirely in love.  I want to care less so that it hurts less.  This is my pattern.  I build up my resistance to the potential pain by controlling the amount of love I allow myself to feel for him.  It’s so very sad that I do this.  

I can’t change my ways overnight.  I was traumatized by his betrayal and I do need to respect my own pace and allow myself to do what’s needed to feel safe.  But rather than starting to turn off my love today, maybe I will let myself feel it for just an extra hour, day or week.  Maybe I can try to lengthen the time I spend being in love before I need to run to my safe little place where there is less of it.  

I think I will let myself be in love tomorrow too…and I’ll see how that goes.