Monday, June 27, 2011

How "It Could Be Worse" Keeps You Stuck

I'm the queen of "it could be worse."
No matter  how much my life sucks, I can always (and easily) come up with myriad ways in which it could be worse.
It's a long-held personal tradition.
My mom's in the psych hospital after attempting to kill her self? Well, it could be worse. She could have succeeded.
My dad's passed out most nights? Could be worse. He could be a drug addict. Or simply gone.
Best friend steals boyfriend? Could be worse. I could be dying of cancer.
And so on.
It was a great survival skill. I was like a Weeble who got knocked down but always ALWAYS popped back up, ready for another round.
And it's a skill I use still.
Kids driving me crazy? At least they're healthy enough to drive me crazy. They could be hooked up to machines in a hospital.
Dog poops on new Persian rug? At least I can afford a Persian rug.
Roof leaking? At least I have a roof over my head.
Husband cheats? At least my kids aren't dead (I trotted that one out a LOT. By all means, I told the universe, give me betrayal. But please don't take my if I was bartering with Satan.)
Not that "it could be worse" is necessarily a bad thing. I'm the eternal optimist – always looking on the bright side of life.
The thing is, I'm learning – thanks to all the it-could-be-worse scenarios I've invented in the past few years, that it can also keep me stuck.
It's easy to stay in muck up to your knees when you tell yourself you're lucky it's not up to your neck.
And it's a great way to avoid getting out of the muck altogether.
And, I've decided, I want a muck-free life.
I'm learning (slowly...thanks to those survival skills which served me well as a kid...but now stand in the way) that it's absolutely my prerogative to say, "sure things could be worse...but they could be BETTER, too." Better might mean a husband who not only doesn't cheat on me, but also helps around the house and shares my values. Better might be a fixed roof. It might be a kids who behave more respectfully (let's remind will treat us respectfully until we treat ourselves respectfully). It might be a whole heap of things that could be worse...but that I don't want to tolerate any more.
I don't want the pendulum to swing totally the other way (those people are called pessimists/in-laws...and I avoid them the same way I avoid Tea Partiers and the Kardashians). I like seeing the glass as half-full. I'm just going to remind myself with a bit more regularity that, with some self-respect and determination and firm boundaries, the glass can be completely full...ideally with a nice Shiraz.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How Infidelity Messes With Your Mojo

I loved sex. Though I came to the party a little late by some standards, when I got there, I discovered it was my kind o' party.
I fully embraced my sexuality. I believed I was sexy...without relying on stiletto heels and garters.
I had a few lovers – mostly long-term boyfriends with whom I enjoyed frequent and pretty awesome sex. I tried a one-night stand and it left me feeling kinda yucky. The way you feel after you finish a bag of chips you weren't sure you wanted in the first place.
I think my attitude about sex was healthy and open-minded – there were some things that didn't appeal to me (tied to my bedpost? Not for me) but if it turned other people on and was between two consenting adults?? Go for it.
And then...I met and began dating the guy who became my husband.
At first, everything was fine. Sex was fun and fulfilling.
But slowly, things got...weird.
He didn't like my underwear – my used-to-be-white-until-they-aged cotton briefs. He wanted garters and stilettos. I felt comfy in flannels and faded jeans.
I checked out Victoria's Secret and ordered a few things that looked wildly uncomfortable.  They were.
I wore them anyway.
He was only mildly impressed.
And slowly, our sex life withered away. The frequency continued...but the fulfilling part had vanished. Or rather, it was physically fulfilling...but spiritually empty.
It was – simply – sex.
I was mystified. I read books. Tried talking to him. Cried a lot.
Things got worse.
What of course I didn't know through all this was that my husband had a sex addiction. Mixed in with a few longer-term but emotionally vacant affairs were a number of "hookups". Blow jobs in a parking lot.
In the meantime, I'd discovered it was easier to put my sex drive on ice.
I became pregnant. Then pregnant again. And again. (Clearly we were having sex...but it was more like scratching an itch than making love.) My body was preoccupied with either building babies or feeding babies.
By the time the babies no longer needed my body, I had lost touch with it. I certainly didn't feel sexy. And felt incredibly UNsexy to my husband. By then we were fighting a fair bit – mostly about how little he did with the kids. How little support I felt he gave me. How frequently he was absent from the dinner table.
As fate would have it, I met someone else. I found myself intrigued. For the first time in years, I felt desired. Sexy. Interesting.
At no point did I act on this attraction, though I was pretty sure it was mutual. I introduced him, jokingly, as my soon-to-be-second husband. But behind the joke was a desperate plea for someone to notice the pain I was in.
I finally told my husband that I thought our marriage was in trouble. (Ya think??? I'm a bit slow sometimes...). I told him we needed to get counselling to figure out how to reconnect.
So we did.
Two weeks later, it hit me like a brick – hard and painfully – that my husband was having an affair.
I confronted him. He read the customary cheating-husband script. (No I'm not. Well, sorta...but it was only one night. Well, okay it was more than that but it's over. Well, okay, it's not really over, but it didn't mean anything. Well, okay maybe it went on for a few years...blah blah lying blah.)
Fast forward four years and though, in some ways, our marriage is better than it ever was (we talk! we spend time together! his chair isn't empty at the dinner table! we laugh!), our sex life has quite literally died.
It's easier, I've discovered, to simply banish all desire for sex than to wade into the murky waters of sex with a formerly (will I ever truly trust?) unfaithful spouse.
It feels...scary. Terrifying, actually.
So we're starting slowly as per instructions from our truly incredible marriage counsellor.
With full body hugs...NOT leading to sex.
To simply get used to once again having full-body contact. To feel and hear his heart beat and remind myself that he's a human being who majorly messed up. But is doing what he can to make up for it.
To reawaken in myself the awareness that physical touch isn't always a gateway to emotional pain. It can – indeed should – heal.
I'm even starting to feel sexy again. I don't have the marathon-toned body I had when my husband and I started dating. It's got the marks of motherhood and age...which can be sexy in its own right.
A friend recently referred to a 40-plus year old woman, who would NOT be confused with a supermodel, as "juicy". And I loved it. She was juicy. She exuded a confidence and a sexuality that had nothing to do with size 0 jeans and perky breasts.
So I'm talking to myself a lot lately. Telling myself I'm "juicy". Telling myself that my husband isn't a sex addict because I wear cotton briefs. Reminding myself that sex isn't about gymnastics but pleasure.
Somewhere in the pain of emotional rejection and physical infidelity I lost my mojo...but I think I'm hot on its trail.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wanting what's best...

The Redbook article that I cited here continues to weigh on my mind. Though I've known about and have written about it here and here and here, and though I've gained considerable insight into the psyche of cheaters, I nonetheless consoled myself with the belief that these guys were the exception, not the rule.
Now...I'm not so sure.

I've spent a lot of time trying to find the best in myself. When you're raised in a dysfunctional home (alcoholism was the dysfunction of choice in my family....but it, of course, spawns all sorts of others: neglect, abandonment, intimacy issues, for starters), you often feel "bad". As a child you believe that if you were good, then you would be treated well. There's such shame around dysfunction that you grow up convinced that you, too, are shameful.
I tried to get better. I spent years in therapy, struggling to understand what it was about me that made me put up with all manner of neglect, abuse, betrayal.
And then I met my husband. And, for the first time, I felt safe.
And we all know how that turned out for me.

The thing is, we all deserve to feel – indeed to be – safe. When we choose to commit to someone else in this life – whether that commitment looks like marriage or parenthood or friendship – we owe it to that person to provide a basis for their happiness. Not that it's our job to make them happy. But it is our job to want their happiness. And to not stand in the way of that.

Which is why the Redbook story has me feeling so sad. The men featured are themselves sad. And by that I don't mean pathetic, though they're a bit that, too. They feel cheated by life. Their wives aren't who they ultimately feel connected to (though, perhaps, that's because they're trolling sites to hook up with other women rather than actually listening to their wives thoughts and dreams). Their lives haven't measured up to their dreams. So they dip a toe into this fantasy world, where they're sexy and desirable and life is good and exciting.

But where they're so lost is not that they're putting their own happiness before their wives. Indeed, I think we owe it to ourselves to strive for our own happiness. But where they're lost is that they're actively standing in the way of their wives' happiness. How? By not giving their wives the truth about themselves.

We all deserve that truth. We deserve to know who it is we're married to because we deserve to make the choice about whether or not we want to be married to that person. I don't dispute another's right to have sex with whomever will have sex with them. What I object to is the lying and betrayal. If my husband loves me but feels he can't connect intellectually with me and therefore would like to forge a relationship with another woman, fair enough. But let me decide if that's okay with me.

A truly enlightened relationship operates on that level of honesty. I'm not sure I would consider "open marriages" in this category...but perhaps at least some of them are.

As for me, I want a relationship in which my husband wants the best for me. And respects me enough to be honest – which allows me to decide what that "best" is.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tee-hee Tuesday: Shocker! It was Weiner's...ummm...ya know

The scandals are piling as high as the bodies in a Shakespearean tragedy. John Edwards has been indicted for using campaign funds to hide his mistress, their child and his campaign assistant (along with who knows how many skeletons. Honestly, do they make closets this big?), Schwarzenasshole took his own family – the one we knew about – and hit "detonate", and Anthony Weiner, he of the just-so-giggly last name, fessed up that it was indeed his campaign member in the illicit photos.
Besides the incredible lack of judgement these men share, they're also big fat liars. Doesn't anybody, with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, ever just take a deep breath and admit, "ya caught me"?
Consider this a plea...or rather a couple of pleas. For one, stop with the naked photos. Please. There's enough porn in the world that you don't need to add yours to the mix. You're not that hot. And secondly, when you get caught (because it seems you will, inevitably, get caught), just smile bashfully and nod so we can all get on with our lives.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Scoop on Snooping

A recent article in Redbook magazine offered up the experience of an undercover reporter who met up with men on, the site that sells cheating by reminding us that "Life is short. Have an affair."
At the end of the piece – which basically details a bunch of men who insist that they're wives don't have a clue what they're up to – we're advised that we shouldn't snoop because marriage is about trust. No checking his BlackBerry, his web history for visits to even looking for lipstick stains on his collar.
Instead, we are advised to talk to our husbands if we have any niggling suspicions about their...extracurriculars.
Which is, of course, a Catch-22. We generally have those suspicions because they're acting...well...suspicious. Like men who are having an affair. Which, if we're right, isn't generally going to elicit a fit of honesty. If they're like the vast majority of men who are, in fact, cheating, they'll generally deny. Like the guy who, caught in bed with another woman, insisted, "It's not what you think it is." Depending on our approach to our potentially cheating spouses, their level of guilt and their basic personality, we'll get any of a number of responses.
Self-righteous indignation: "I can't believe you think I would do that. What type of man do you think I am?"
Gentle reassurance: "I love you, sweetie. You have nothing to worry about."
Paranoid: "Do you need to know everything about me? Can't you just trust me? sure don't think much of me, do you?"
Deflecting: "I'm amazed you bring this up because I've been wondering about you. You seem pretty flirty with your co-worker, Steve."
What you likely won't get is, "yeah, in fact I have been thinking of having/am actually having an affair. I feel unappreciated and that life is passing me by and even though I know it's my own insecurity/mid-life crisis/insert-psychological-shortcoming-here, I think that having sex with someone and lying to you about it will distract me enough from own boredom/crises/fear of failure that I'm going to just go ahead and do it."
Ain't gonna happen.
And so...we snoop.
We check their Blackberry when they're not looking. We browse their Web history...or take note when it's wiped clean. We install keyloggers to monitor their online use (though beware, I think this is illegal without the person's consent). We slip recording devices beneath the seat of their car. We check VISA statements. We even follow them to see if they're going where they said they were...and with whom.
No, it's not pretty. And it's generally not our proudest moments.
But you likely wouldn't be reading this if your suspicions hadn't turned out to be true. I often remind readers that those gut feelings that something isn't right are worth paying attention to.
I never dreamed I would recommend snooping. I was one of those wives who thought it was pathetic. But then again, I was also one of those wives who never thought I'd be here.
Though it wasn't snooping that got me the truth, it certainly gave me a more complete picture of the affair than my husband initially gave.
And it just might give you the evidence you need to confront your husband...and know that his denial is total BS. And give you the information you need to protect yourself from STDs.
Snoop? I say that when you've got a gut feeling that won't go away and your husband won't give you a straight answer...yep.
What do you say?


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