Monday, May 21, 2018

Why I'm Sad About the Royal Wedding

"Your power to change the world is your power to change your mind about the world." ~Marianne Williamson talking to Oprah

I woke this morning grumpy. Last night's dreams were interrupted by long periods of wakefulness. I've been sick with a stomach flu that won't go away.
But mostly, I'm just angry with the world.
Or rather, angry with MY world.
Because yesterday, I watched clips of the Royal Wedding.
I'm not much of a royal watcher, though I live in the Commonwealth. I wept at Diana's death and became enamoured with her post-mortem.
I periodically watch The Crown.
But mostly, my royal watching is of the "oh, look. The adorable baby prince and princess is on the cover of People" variety.
Until yesterday when I began watching clips of the wedding and couldn't turn away.
Has a groom ever looked at his wife such naked love? Has a wife ever reached for her husband's hand so consistently, as if it's the only thing that will keep her rooted on earth? Has a couple ever been so perfect for one another?
But then...
A wave of sadness.
My own wedding was beautiful. My dress not unlike Meghan Markle's, though significantly less couture.
I woke that sunny morning with the teensiest sense of cold feet. Was I ready for this commitment? Was I absolutely certain?
I fought the unease in my stomach. I've never loved being the center of attention so I attributed some of my discomfort to that.
I knew, though, that I needed to see my husband-to-be. I felt certain that once I could look into his brown eyes and see the love there, that I would be okay.
He, however, was in another town, waiting for the wedding to begin.
He was also fighting the mother of all hangovers, courtesy of a groomsman who had been ordering doubles all night for my mostly tea-totaller of a husband.
But I didn't know that.
I knew only that I needed to see him.
I arrived at the church. Someone cued the organist to begin playing Pachelbel's Canon in D.
With my mother on one side, my father on the other, I walked down the aisle toward my husband who...wouldn't look at me.
I panicked, desperate to catch his eye.
His eyes fixed on the ground.
The stories swirled in my brain. He doesn't want this. He's having second thoughts. Oh god, what am I going to do? Should I do the dirty work and say "no" at the alter and save him from this? From me?
No matter that he had expressed zero doubts about this prior to this moment.
I was convinced that he didn't want to marry me.
I got to him and he took my hand, still refusing to meet my eyes.
I stood there in abject terror that he was going to say no.
What would I do?
The wedding went off without a hitch. When we finally had a moment where I could whisper to him, "why won't you look at me", he whispered back: "I think I'm going to be sick. I drank too much."
When I later got the whole story, I was livid with the friend who did this.
But I also realized that the stories I was telling myself were fiction.
We change the world when we change our minds about the world, Marianne Williamson tells us.
She might be talking about big change, like feeding the hungry and housing the homeless and embracing the disenfranchised. But she's also talking about change on a much more personal level. She's talking about changing the way we perceive the world – as a fundamentally good safe place or a fundamentally unsafe bad place. When we see it as fundamentally good, we keep our hearts open to the beauty of it. When we see it as fundamentally bad, we close our hearts.
Either approach is, of course, a story we tell ourselves. The world has both good and bad. I contain both good and bad. And, I have learned since my wedding day, so does my husband.
In the early days post D-Day, I thought I would never feel joy again. The world had become dark and I expected it to remain so.
It was only when I could change my mind that the world changed for me. The light began to seep through the cracks.
Today, the darkness comes and goes, but mostly goes.
My anger today is, of course, a mask for the sadness I'm feeling about the ways in which my own marriage hasn't lived up to my expectations of it, to my hopes. I've learned the hard way that pushing that sadness away sends it underground until it reappears. As resentment, a lack of self-care, poor sleep.
I'm going to wish the best to the Royal Couple. I'm going to hope that the love they feel for each other on their wedding day continues to grow. I'm going to hope that neither betrays their vows to each other.
And I'm going to let this sadness wash over me until my faith in myself, my husband and my marriage is restored anew.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Cheater Answers What We All Want to Know: Why?

It's the question that all of us ask when we discover our partner cheated on us. Why? we ask, over and over, rarely satisfied with the answers. Sometimes we're dissatisfied with the answer because it's blame-shifting and gaslighting. Sometimes we're dissatisfied because it's entitlement and delusional. Sometimes because it's trickle truth and we know there's a whole lot more to it. But sometimes we're dissatisfied because we just don't believe it. Really? It meant nothing? Then why bother? Why risk so much for so little? Why? Why?
Lynn Less Pain posted this in the Sex and Intimacy After Betrayal thread and I'm so struck by the candor that I want to post it again here: 

I would be inclined to believe your husband when he says there weren't emotions involved. Most of the sex I've had in my life had no emotions involved. It was exceptionally rare for me to develop an emotional bond with someone I was sleeping with; and, that was as a single guy. When I already have an emotional bond with my wife, I can't imagine an affair having an emotional component for me, I really can't. I'm sure I'd say whatever it took, but the real payoff for me, the reason I'd do it and then go back, would be exclusively for the sex.

I'm not sure if this helps you at all, but, at least some men (me), think about this very differently than women do. Sex isn't the same for me as I see it described for others; the only time it's ever been that is in my marriage and that was a long process to get to the point of integrating the physical sensation of sex with the emotional connection. It's not the "default" setting at all for me, and I don't think it is for most other men.

And I do believe the sex he had with her, albeit new and exciting, was never what we have, and that it can still be "special" for us. Absolutely it can be. I'm going to say something that's going to really piss off some husbands, but, honestly; in a lot of affairs the OW is simply a substitute for the hand. Like, I'd jerk off, but this feels better, it's not too much effort to get her over here and have her do it, and, what the heck, I deserve it. It's an equation, how much work vs how much better sex feels than masturbating. And that's what these guys are often doing, they are just masturbating with another woman's body. I do think that a lot of the affair is just finding and keeping a masturbatory aid around, and feeling good because you can call her up at any time when you want some relief. It sounds like this is the kind of affair your Husband had, and this is the kind of Affair that I've seen first hand. The question isn't "did he care about her" because the answer barely makes sense, she was just there to bring the things he did care about with her. The question is "why did he think this was OK". And I think that's the question that husbands need to dig in on; not "why do it", that's obvious, but "why did I give myself permission to do it".

This guy has done some soul-searching and I suspect he's none too crazy about the lack of integrity he found. But, to his credit, it sounds as if he's done some hard work.
And he's absolutely right. If a cheater won't examine why he gave himself permission to cheat then he's vulnerable to doing it again. Without pulling that sense of entitlement into the light and truly examining the thought process, subconscious or not, that led to cheating, then a relationship with him is high-risk.
Too often I read the stories of women who come to this site, confused about why they feel stuck in their pain only to read further that their partners are insisting this is "in the past" and they need to "move forward". That sends off so many alarm bells in my head, it's a miracle you can't hear them ring across the Internet. 
Anyone who refuses to examine why they cheated is either still invested in giving himself permission to do so or so terrified of what's there that his denial will keep him so emotionally removed from any intimacy as to make a true relationship impossible.
If a cheater wants a second chance, then he needs to show you he deserves it. And he shows you that by taking a good long look at "why did I give myself permission to do it."

Monday, May 14, 2018

Our messy, complicated, magical lives

Our stories are not carved in stone.
"After a while, the stories from our past begin to feel like poems we memorized in fifth grade, or Beatles songs we learned by heart. They evoke memories, feelings, possibilities or the lack of them, and if we believe them we are defined by them. It's as if we draw a circle around ourselves and say, This is me. This is what I'm capable of. This is how it will be forever."
~Geneen Roth, This Messy Magnificent Life

My childhood was miserable. And it was magical. When I was five years old, my mother read 2001: A Space Odyssey to me and my eight-year brother, passing along her passion for books and stories. My father spent freezing nights flooding our back yard for an ice rink so we could skate through the Canadian winter.
I would wake to the sound of my parents fighting. Slurred accusations. Loud threats. 
As I've grown older, my story seems more complicated. As my parents grew older, they seemed more complicated. I adored my mother, who died after 25 years of sobriety, the same mother who routinely called me selfish in my teens and insisted I cared about nobody but myself. My father, who celebrated his 89th birthday last week, is one of my favorite people in the world. He's kind and generous, a true gentle man. But he's also the dad who, when I was 14, left me to cook and clean and tend to my alcoholic mother, while he sat in his chair with a glass of rye and a cigarette, consumed by self-pity.
Stories from our past, as Geneen Roth says, can become so rigid that they might as well be bars, locking us behind them. 
"If we believe them we are defined by them," writes Roth. She isn't suggesting that our stories aren't true, of course. Our husbands cheated on us. That is indisputable. No, what she's suggesting is that the stories we attach to what happens to us can become shackles. And that they are much more open to interpretation.
Take for instance, this familiar story: My husband cheated. He couldn't possibly love me and do such a thing. I mean nothing to him and that isn't going to change.
Maybe you're telling yourself this story. I certainly did. And I believed every word.
I clung to that story as gospel truth.
And it stopped me from doing anything other than stewing in my own misery, even as a tiny part of me doubted its veracity. Yes he cheated on me. But was it true that he couldn't possibly love me or was that part of an old story? Was it true that I meant nothing to him? Was it true that our marriage was never going to change? 
The story of my parents' betrayal of me had kept me in bad situations for years before I realized that I had the agency to change my own life. My husband's betrayal of me was such a familiar one, I knew it by heart. And underscoring every word of it was this: There is something wrong with me. I am unloveable. This will never change.
Because I believed that story, I was defined by it. And it paralyzed me. 
But our stories do not predict the future. They tell us nothing about "forever". Our stories have something to teach us, absolutely. But the lesson might just be what's written between the lines. The stories we tell ourselves about our stories.
My mother got sober. My father got saner. My husband wrestled with some old demons. I got clearer about what I will and will not tolerate in my life. I treated myself as lovable and began to see that it is true. 
The story I'd been telling myself about my miserable childhood wasn't the whole story. There was magic there too. 


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