Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Opting Out of the Painlympics

I recently wrote about how betrayal can trigger past trauma. And many of you rushed to your keyboards with a "yes, yes, that's me!" response.
For one thing, let me tell you how much I LOVE knowing that I'm able to give words to so much of the confusion we feel post-betrayal.
And let me also say, I've yet to meet the person who doesn't have some pain in their past around abandonment, shame, neglect. We are most decidedly not alone.
But I've also noticed that to those of us whose stories include words like abuse and addiction and jail and so on – those of us who survived situations in which we felt powerless over the pain inflicted on us by the people who were supposed to be safeguarding our hearts – anything that sounds remotely like blame for our spouses' cheating makes our blood boil.
Which is why it can feel like another betrayal when so many of the "how to heal from an affair" books/sites imply that we're somehow responsible, even just a teensy bit, for our spouse's affair.
When you're seeking support for the incredible pain you're in and someone – anyone! – even suggests that you're the reason he cheated in the first place, it lands like a sucker punch.
And it's even more infuriating when it's our spouse. Some guy who's just ripped out our heart explains that he cheated because he felt neglected by us when we were nursing our cancer-stricken mother, or tending to our disabled child, or working to pay for our kids' tutor, or going to the gym to lose weight to get our diabetes under control or maybe just checked out because we were fed up from giving and getting so little in return. Or maybe it was his emotionally absent mother, his abusive father, his drug-addled older brother.'s at those moments when we should ensure we don't have access to firearms because Holy Bad Timing.
Thing is...he just might have a point, though, admittedly, his timing is a bit off.
I couldn't hear it at first. I didn't want a whiff of "excuse" from him. I wanted – and frankly deserved – total accountability from him. Nothing less than "I am so sorry and I will spend the rest of my life trying to be the husband you deserved all along."
But a big part of my inability to hear any explanation for his betrayal of me was my dedication to my own sad-sack story as somehow more deserving of sympathy than his.
I honestly believed that if there was a painlympics – a contest in which the suffering I'd endured was measured against his – that I would go home with the Gold. He'd be lucky to make the podium.
What's more, I felt I deserved a medal for having conquered those demons. Sure my childhood sucked, but I'd spent much of my adulthood trying to learn the right stuff and shake off the wrong stuff.
Besides, I figured I'd had my quota of pain. The universe owed me an easy time of it. I'd made peace with my addict mother. I'd dumped (or been dumped by) the bad boyfriends and married the nice guy. I was healed. Cue the hallelujahs.
Turns out, not so much healed as healing.
It also turns out that the universe isn't really keeping score.
But when we engage in the painlympics – measuring our own pain against others' in order to determine who's more entitled to victimhood – nobody wins.
I've learned this the hard way.
Case in point: A few years ago my daughter was disappointed that she didn't get the part she wanted in a play. She really wanted it. She worked hard for it. "It's not fair," she wailed. "I never get picked," she cried.
I was empathetic, at least at first. I understood her disappointment. I'd felt her disappointment. But then I got a bit tired of it. I tried not to sigh too loudly. I refrained my rolling my eyes. I didn't, however, manage to keep my mouth shut. There are children who don't have clean water, I pointed out delicately (not for the first time). There are children sold into bonded slavery. My point was clear: Your suffering isn't as bad as someone else's so get over yourself.
Fortunately, I was gifted with a daughter who'll have none of that. With the steely authority of a prosecutor, she admitted that, yes, she knows other children have it worse. But, she said, right now she didn't want to hear about them. Right now, it was about her. Right now, her pain mattered.
She was right.
Her pain, no matter how small it might measure on some universal scale of suffering, mattered.
So does yours.
So does mine.
It all matters.
Even the pain of the offending spouse.
There is, however, a deeper lesson there. I came to realize that I dismissed my daughter's suffering as somehow less than deserving of my empathy because it made me uncomfortable. I had wanted my daughter to succeed in ways I hadn't. I had wanted to spare her the pain of, well, living in this world. So when it became clear that I was powerless to protect her, I didn't want to hear it. My reaction was akin to covering my ears and insisting that she tell me a better story in which she felt loved and grateful for all her blessings.
But she was wiser than that. Not only did she make it clear that her suffering mattered, she also made it clear that she was strong enough to handle it. More than once in her so-far short life, she's told me, when I play my "children that don't have clean water" card, that she needs to just be left alone to cry and feel sorry for herself...and that she'll come out of her room when she's feeling better.
And that's exactly what she does.
I've noticed that she's equally capable of being with others in their suffering – no matter how "small" – without fearing becoming lost in it. She sees it for what it is. An open wound that needs love and compassion to heal.
Suffering doesn't frighten her, it pulls her in.
All suffering matters.
I know this is radical. And I know it pisses off those of us who hold firm to some deep belief in fairness.
People like me, for example. People who inwardly scoff at those whose suffering, in the grand scheme of things, seems pretty silly.
Like a husband who claims that he cheated on us because his mother didn't hug him enough.
Silly, right?
Not exactly.
It took me a few months before I could handle listening to my husband finally purging decades of pain that he'd adeptly buried. But once I did – once I could acknowledge his suffering as no less valid than my own – something shifted. He stopped being the enemy and started being a fellow human being, doing his best (which, frankly, sometimes sucked) to get through.
And that changed everything.


  1. Beautifully written Elle and enables us to view things from another side, his side. This teaches me that sometimes I need to listen to his story and pain. Just as important as wanting mine to be heard. We are both wounded and life has changed for both.

  2. Wow, there are so many good points in this but I loved the " sucker punch line"! My MIL actually said had I done a better job at my marriage, her son never would've cheated. Well, really what else would she think?! But you're right about the painolympics being tied to childhood issues. I think I could snatch a Gold hands down. Violent paranoid schizophrenic father, narcissistic/manipulative mother, cheating husband, and cancer survivor. I was very comfortable in my role of victim my therapist used to say. I never really got that point until many yrs later. It takes a huge amount of work to let go of that role but feelings do change and at some point pieces fall together. The point that might be the most important tho is still that I did NOT make my husband have the affairs. That choice was his and part of the behavior he learned in his family growing up. Each person is responsible for healing their own issues. Thank you for this amazing site. I wish it had been around many yrs ago when I went through the betrayal.

    1. Letting go of that role is incredibly hard. So much of my self worth was tied into being the long-suffering daughter -- who took care of everything and everyone while my family fell apart. Years later I continue to do that, and then am filled with resentment which, of course, is nobody's fault but my own. Letting go of having to be everything to everyone (and expecting people to be unfailingly loyal to me as a result) is still hard. It's so entrenched in how I function. Learning a new way feels selfish and uncomfortable. But resenting everyone is what's truly unhealthy. Self-care simply means keeping myself safe, physically and emotionally.

  3. How can I join this site and others? How can I bring this up easily on my smartphone. I really need to be part of your circle of friends.

    1. You already are. You can join with Google Friend Connect -- you'll see it on the right side of this page but you need to sign up with them first. You can use a fake name and there's no need to include an image of yourself.
      I'm so sorry you need to be here...but glad you've found us.

  4. Can I be sure that this want show up facebook or where it will be seen on Yahoo mail? Only to members of these web sites that are helping each other. I live in a very small town and my husband has use of my face book page.

    1. This won't show up on your FB or Yahoo mail. You can post anonymously and all anyone will see is "lossing".
      I know how frightening it can be to feel exposed, but please remember, you've done nothing wrong.

  5. I think I picked a good user name because it
    the way I fill and have felt for the past 12 and a half weeks. My husband and I have been married for 38 years almost 39 the only thing I was for sure of was the he would never cheat on me. I thought we had a good sex life we spent regular sex time together. I tried very hard to make sure we had at least one day a week together. Yes he had some trouble with ED. He's 68, diabetic and had 4 bypasses. I never complained or put any pressure on him to perform. I tried to be very patient with him and I loved the ground he walked on. Twelve weeks ago he sprung on me that he was seeing prostitutes. In two weeks time he had been with 6 prostitutes one two times the total of 7 all of them unprotected sex drug users but very cheap ones at that. It lasted 2 weeks. I've had to go threw all the testing for all the S T D's. My swab came beck positive for Chamydia he was tested 2 or 3 weeks before me and his came back fine. I'm almost to the end of my rope. I've been a homemaker and a stay at home mom all my married life I've always loved doing what I'm doing and very few things I would want to change about my life. My husband can treat me sooooo good he never stops helping me. He works outside and in but he's a total interverted narcissistic. The reason he gave me for doing what he did was he knew his time was short and his sex days were coming to an end and he wanted to play around while he still could. We are facing our 3 mo. Blood draw next Monday. Who knows how that is going to come out??? Plus he hasn't been treating me very well lately. It's like I'm the one who has gave him S T D's. He refuses to talk about it. Then to top it all off I've been on the Internet everyday trying to find out what's wrong with me and thankfully last night I found it I thought I was losing my mind. I've never heard of this term before but I am suffering from Hysterical Bonding. I'm ashamed to admit it but I've got to have help from any sisters who can give support. Thanks a million.

    1. This is beyond awful what your husband has done late in your lives! I just turned 65 and can relate to how scary it is to think about starting over if that is what you choose. His excuses don't seem to be remorseful and you may want to insist that he goes to counseling with you. Even tho my husband's affairs were almost thirty yrs ago, it isn't something you'll ever forget. Is there a chance this is early dementia? With so many health issues going on it would be nice to blame it on that except if he has been narcissistic all his life chances are it's tied to his personality. You realize that now he doesn't call the shots. Your decisions should just be for you and what is good for you. No doubt he won't hind a hooker to take care of him with end of life issues. The loyal wife, you, who he has stabbed in the back gets to decide if you're willing to be his nurse.

    2. Thanks, Your're so right in 05 I set beside his bed in I C U while he was coming through bypass surgery. I know he was suffering but I know what I was going through was worse. He didn't want to listen to me or the Dr.'s and he didn't like nothing I did for him after he got home. He was stressed out trying to quite a 40 year old habit from smoking. He was so blessed he after trying to quit for years he go off cigarettes cold turkey. Never had another one after that. I know that was hard on him. I'm not even coming close to try and make out to be the poor wife but he's so hard to do for and he's always blaming others for his sins. About 3 or 4 years ago he was mowing the yard and had a horrible accident with a bungie cord and the lawn mow. He almost lost his eye site instead of being so thankful that he came out so well he got so angry over what happened and he wouldn't let me put the drops in his eye. If you could only see how he acted it was terrible. It's a wonder if he hadn't had a full blown heart attack. This went on for days.
      I know with all my heart that he want ever touch a whore again but what will it be next time. He can only go a year or to without a c**** sorry I can't spell it. It's always been ever so often he gets in some kind of trouble or incident. He dosen't think I've got one thing to say about the whores. I'm looking for s*** to hit the fan. Tomorrow he has to have his 3 months blood test for all the nasties. His first test was to early but you would have thought I had already gave him full blown aids. He as well as the day he was scared that he has it but not one word that if he does I do too. He lilltery almost took my breath away the way he had no clue what he's done to me.

    3. Lossing,
      You are in an abusive relationship. There's no doubt in my mind that you have spent much of your marriage trying to avoid blame, anger, disgust. I would urge you to take your kids' advice and get out, even just for long enough to see if he's willing to smarten up. You don't deserve the treatment you've received. You deserve peace and respect. Begin by giving it to yourself.

  6. I feel for you. The reason my husband gave was that he had been with very few women before me and he was aging and balding and what he didn't say was that he was probably freaking out that I was supposed to be the only one he would have sex with for the rest of our lives. Yes it is stupid and narcissistic. I have never slept with anyone else. I've wondered what it would be like but not enough to risk losing my family over. But don't look at it from your perspective. Try to be empathetic and see it through a man's perspective, whom society tells its all about how many different women you have been with. Yes he did a shitty thing; they all did. His anger at you as though you gave him STD's is probably his mechanism of self defense for the guilt he is feeling.

    I have been suffering from hysterical bonding for over a year, after years of not being that interested in sex because I was usually too busy or too tired. I didn't know what it was either until I read about it on this site. Read every blog here & I read so many books as well.

    Good luck to you and welcome.


    1. Thanks, you are so right. I've fill thanks to you ladies I'm healing fast. May God bless all of you.

  7. Oh, I forgot.

    I was also sure my husband would never cheat. We all are, but without really any good reason for trusting them. This experience has taught me there is only one person we can trust, and that is ourselves. What a life lesson.


    1. So true, Lord help me please sometimes now I'm so off my rocker I'm even afraid to trust my self.

  8. I followed this site since D day December 2013. This site has got me through many bad days. The thoughts are always of healing and love not ego or fear no matter what your final decision. My husband of 35 years had a 3 year AP and I'm nine months into this different world of love and he'll. My mind is in a constant search to get away from the pain. Our plane only had two seats but he tried to cram a third person on our plane and we crashed. No one wronged me as much as he wronged himself.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Glad you finally spoke up. Welcome. Sorry you had to find us, but glad you did.

  9. I do agree with this post. I can see my husband is working through the pain and guilt. He says he feels like he should've been there for me since I was depressed. I however was busy pushing him away. I do have to say someone cheating is the worst pain I have ever felt. And it is very painful trying to work through it and save the marriage. I have been sexually molested by family members as a child and had a very short marriage prior to this one that involved sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. I do have to say that the husband cheating topped the previous experiences. I visit this website now in hopes to feel better. It does help. I am only 2 months into the awareness of my husbands affair. It is very hard at times when he is feeling guilty and upset about what he did to empathize. I hope that as time goes on it gets better. I do realize he was hurting too when he started the affair. It just isn't fair that I'm on meds to help me sleep and he is sleeping better since d day.

    1. Anonymous,
      Nothing about this is "fair", unfortunately. And you've had far more than your share of pain and betrayal. I'm so so sorry for all that you've gone through.
      But let me applaud the courage you clearly have. You're still standing and living a life of integrity. That's huge. And you're facing your issues, which is huge, too. Sadly your husband chose to run away from his but it sounds as if he's learning to own up to his own stuff.
      I hope you give yourself credit for what you've overcome and trust that you'll get past this. You're right in that the pain is excruciating. But healing is possible -- and getting to a place where you feel even stronger and more able to trust yourself is a gift.

    2. We have so much in common. I'm a month ahead of you, but I will wait for you to catch up. I can tell a BIG difference in what a month will make. I'm almost starting to have a panic attack just writing you this post. My hands are shaking. I haven't been depressed in years. I thought we had a great marriage. We made love almost every weekend and a lot of times threw the week. It wasn't like bells going off but I thought he was fine with it. Even now I beg him to tell me what he wants what he likes. At 68 with his 4 bypasses and diabetes he doesn't have a lot of filling. We can't use condoms. I know we should be but he's filling so bad and I'm doing all I can to give him my total love. I want him to know he has my forgiveness and I'm praying he will see this as just how much I really love and appreciate him. I know for a fact I'm his rock. He doesn't get along with any of his family. He's not very close to our daughter's even tho he loves em dearly it's really hard for him to communicate with them. He goes through me for most of his answers. He dosen't have not One Friend. So I know he depends on me as much as I depend on him. Before his trip down town I was working at the church, going to movies, eating out with my girlfriends, I could never have any friends at home so I would cook and have my friends come to church and every Friday was a girls night out. If I didn't do the cooking we would go out. I thought my h. enjoyed the quite time he had alone. He would walk, mow or watch TV. I was only 2 nights a week and I was in by 9:00pm. Now I can't bring myself self to go anywhere. The only thing that I'm doing now.

    3. New day downing, knock me down, first time" real support". Today he stated asking me about his "he calls it his aids test" he made the comment well I know I have something. I wasn't mean but firm "I said you what the h. about me". He stopped just looked at me and held me in his arms. He said "I sure hope not". We had a really good day actually talked some.

  10. I'm so glad someone said that. My husband has said he feels like a weight was lifted off his shoulders since I found out about his affair. I on the other hand have had an enormous weight shifted onto mine. He sleeps better, he feels better, he's not as stressed out trying to lead a double life for 2 years, and the list goes on and on. It's extremely frustrating that the betrayed partner is now saddled with this heavy load, while he is now "relieved".

    1. Yep, not fair at all. However, the fact that he had such guilt indicates that he's not a psychopath. That's good news, huh? :)

    2. Yes my husband is relieved that he doesn't have to hide anymore-- he had stuff the other women have him he was afraid I'd find, emails, voicemails, texts. Once the affairs were over he still had sexting relationships with several other women til last year. He stopped everything once I found out. He didn't stop sexting when I saw those texts, but he did stop when I found out about the first affair. He says it's a relief to be able to go on vacation & not have to find somewhere private to use his phone.

      But he is definitely not relieved that I know about the affairs from the standpoint that he feels guilty he caused me so much pain. He is also emabarassed by what he did. His first affair was just after we married. She thru himself at him & he went along with it like the bachelor party he never had, his last chance to sleep with someone other than me. Pretty shitty/stupid & he knows it, & now I do to, & he wishes I didn't.


    3. I can so relate to what you're saying about the burden shifting, and having to go through life in a way that required such effort to cope, while things only get better in the long run for the person who cheated. He was able to quit smoking when OW introduced him to vaporizers, and here I am in he shadow of that high horse. Not that he minds, but I know he'd like it better if I quit. And I know how this sounds, I don't want to be the person who looks at him quitting like it's a bad thing when in truth, it's really great that he did considering his family medical history. But other than the fact that the first vapes he smoked reminded me of her, I can't help but feel a bit "what gives" that HE did that and HE was able to succeed in making a positive change, and my nerves can't handle change right now. While if it had to be anything, it's really good that it's him quitting, something with a positive effect on his life, I almost certain she had this in mind. Eliminating a lifestyle commonality that would make him have this in common with her.
      It feels selfish to even be bothered by it. But I guess it's really not him quitting smoking that bothered me. It's that it came from her, and I'd prefer it had to do with anyone else on the planet. And someone with pure intentions.

  11. Part 1)
    Elle, i love your blog. Found it no more than a few weeks ago and have been a spectator of new and old posts since.
    I'm in my early twenties and unmarried, but after years of avoiding any relationship lasting longer than a month, and then having a long term relationship and living with my significant other, for me it almost feels like marriage. He even refers to me endearingly as "wifey".
    I'd been with him for nearly a year and living together for over 6 months when he cheated on me with his ex. Grimy fucking details that I can't even go into. That's what they do. They literally make you feel so stupid that you can't tell anyone.
    Anyway, he told me after a couple days of this going on. They reconnected as friends shortly after the death of one of their mutual friends (heroin overdose). I knew about it and was fine with it until the betrayal. Then, in that delusional, ill -conceived affair fog, he thought he might want to get back together with her. He said he wasn't sure so yes, it was about 2 awful weeks of the pick-me dance. Coming from someone whose parents divorced and fought for custody and experienced other residual drama of their split for years, the same years during which I was badly bullied every day at school (along with mean older siblings at home at the same time), lost a good friend on mine to heroin overdose, dealt with chronic pain, spent 3 years in active opiate addiction, and saw my mother eat a pharmacy swallowing any pills she could under the influence of ambien and situational depression - after all that, I think this might be the worst thing in my life. That said, he picked me (not a surprise to anyone but her) and has been very remorseful. I still think he compartmentalizes to an extent, and god was he the master back then. He couldn't see what he was asking of me and worse, he couldn't see that he was ruining our life together for someone so callous, manipulative and cruel. Though slowly but surely, he started to integrate these factors of the situation and consequences, to a point where he could begin to deserve another chance.
    He has not spoken to her since the couple weeks over which this took place. It was late February/early march of this year. He moved us to the beach and has done really well at his job. I love it here, I love him, and were doing pretty well. But I still feel fragile most of the time. You know. Intrusive thoughts, nightmares (if it's not about her or them together, it's things like my hair falling out) anxiety with physical symptoms like heart racing, chest pains.

  12. Part 2)
    I don't know if I forgive him. I understand it was a hard time for him, losing that friend who he'd known most of his life, along with 2 others who passed during this short time. I think the 3rd one may have been a wake up call for him because he had the misfortune (even according to him at the time) of being with her when he found out. It wasn't where he wanted to be. I don't trust him yet but I try to have faith. Faith is irrational so it's the best I can do. Trust in others, not just him, but in anyone seems more irrational now, however. It doesn't seem worth it. The problem isn't men, not women, it's people. It's my generation as well. I don't believe in humanity as much as I used to.
    She is literally the worst person I've ever met, and one might deduce that I have quite a shit-list. But I'm also forgiving, when someone makes the effort, it feels more natural for me to trust and forgive than not to. But I've kind of rewired since this happened. At least i don't have the burden of envying her. Like a lot of your OW, she's a terribly selfish and entitled person, with half my intellect and half my aesthetic appeal. She's had her karma, from what I've heard. Even found out recently that she started working as an escort through a service. She was a stripper before this, but of course that's not why I hate her.
    Everyone here really can't say it better than invoking the term "toxic". It's exactly what she is.
    Him, it was like he was a different person than i had known. Did not recognize him. And I really had no way of knowing if he was ever coming back.
    Little by little that fog lifted soon enough, and like most cheating partners he kind of resents her now. He has little to no respect for her, and he knows her better than I do. I cAnt trust him yet, but if nothing else, I know without a doubt in my mind, that he is happy with his choice, that he's relieved for who he chose and how he proceeded in life.
    No one knows except my parents. A week after D Day I told my mom. Who told my step dad and that's fine, I assumed she'd tell him. I was forced to tell my dad, who I was working for at the time but I'm not close with him personally (long and winding road of a story). I hadn't spoken with him in a long time before I started working for his company. I needed time off and he was willing to give it, but demanded an explanation. He was very sympathetic, but proceeded to throw it back in my face a few weeks later (after returning to work) and told my siblings who I absolutely did not want to know. My friends don't know. I was reading an old page of this blog when someone said how isolating it is, and how disconnected you feel from people, familiar and new, when it's your secret.
    I apologize for the long and tedious post, I know the thoughts must be disorganized as I was trying to cover a lot of elements. Elle, here's my question.

    My SO and I (like many of his friends and a few of mine) have histories of opiate addiction. He pulled his life together soon after we met, had some legal trouble, has not touched an opiate or controlled substance in almost 2 years. I have not used in 2 and a half years with the help of medication-assisted therapy (better success statistics than NA). I was in therapy for a long time as well, found physical therapy and another online support forum. While on the medical treatment I am on, my risk of relapse is very low. For him and most addicts, it's a little more risky. He told me that after his friend died, he is certain that it was either the affair, or relapse. That it would have been one or the other. He says this about the past, not as a threat. He's out of excuses, but it's just something he considers to be a truth in the situation. What do you make of this?

    1. I'm so glad you found us...and that you shared your story. You're insightful, compassionate and funny. Sadly, you're also going through so much of what we all go through, the post-trauma of betrayal where the world suddenly feels much less safe.
      I come from a long line of addicts and I've come to believe that most affairs are simply another form of escape. A way of avoiding those uncomfortable feelings that addicts, especially, hate: loneliness, boredom, fear, hurt, anxiety. An affair is a distraction. A sort of manufactured crisis.
      Which is a way of saying that I think your SO is being quite honest. The next question, however, is what is he going to do with this insight. Now that he knows he's vulnerable to an affair (no matter how unappealing the affair partner), how is he going to ensure he doesn't go down that path -- or the path toward opiates -- again. Is he in a recovery program? Does he have that support system he can call on when he's feeling vulnerable? Does he recognize the signs of feeling vulnerable?
      Addicts, as you no doubt know, are masters at avoiding feeling lousy. But feeling lousy is a part of the human condition. We can't outrun it. So clearly part of his recovery has to be learning to trust that those crappy feelings won't last forever. That he can handle them.
      And part of your healing from his betrayal, whether you stay with him or not, is learning that key to trusting anyone else is trusting yourself first. If you truly learn to trust your own instincts, your own resources, your own heart, then you come to know that it doesn't matter so much what other people do to you. You know that you will always keep yourself safe, whatever that means in the circumstance.
      I'm so sorry for all that you're going through.
      But it sounds also like you're one amazing person who will be able to get past this.
      I hope you'll keep us posted.

    2. Elle, thank you very much for dignifying my post with such a well-crafted response. I appreciate the feedback.
      The ironic thing is, that where painlyphics are concerned, my SO would put me to shame. He'd take home the gold, I'd probably be in the audience. His family has been highly dysfunctional for a number of years, almost as far back as his living memory. I saw a lot, heard a lot, knew a lot by living with them. Moving here was the first step towards a healthier environment, he has accomplished a lot since we've been here and we are definitely happier. There is alcoholism in his family, and his parents have a way of going back and forth from their kids being the greatest, most helpful and decent people in the world, to "fucking idiots" or others in an assortment of things one should never say to their offspring. It would take too long to get into, but a few key events in his life: house burning down and losing everything they own twice (one fire was intentionally started by his mother while intoxicated and in some kind of a rage), incidents of violence between his parents, one time when his mom went after his dad with a knife (and then was asked to doctor the story for her legal benefit), caught each of his parents cheating on eachother on separate occasions, and too many incidents of drama to recall even just in the time that I've been around. His dad has serious anger issues. It's no wonder he sought escape in drugs.
      I think him realizing what was happening to him at the time of his friends death is very important in order to prevent it from happening again, but that being said, he doesn't like to analyze these things, which is why any answers he does generate are of high value. You guessed it, he does not like to confront negative feelings. I believe that his introspection happens usually at a retroactive level. He doesn't really know what to say about something until he looks back.
      Like most cheating partners, he hates talking about it. That's not to say that he shuts down or gets angry, but it seems more like he is half-listening and can't wait to change the subject. I tried telling him yesterday that there's been a few times we talked about it recently, when he did listen and say something useful, that made me feel better. While it's not the word he would use, I think he worries that it's pain-shopping. So I've basically been trying to convey that during the conversations he takes a more active role in, those are the times that I feel a little more peace.
      We're not meeting-type people, conflicting philosophies you could say. Besides I'm wary of anything that claims to be the only solution. This works very well for other people, but I found proper support in other places like my online forum. We were very isolated when we lived back with his family. He manages a restaurant up here (in a vacation city) so there's not much time for him to do counseling of anything like that, though I doubt he'd be inclined to. Bottling it up, as I'm sure you'll say, is the survival method he's used since growing up under his parents authority. However, I do think his work is helpful. He was not working for a long time after rehab (he had legal problems for which he went to jail, and then a six month rehab inpatient program, not used since except for pain meds when he lost his wisdom teeth) and I think that played a role. As my mother said, "he has too much time on his hands". Not anymore, and he likes coming home so at least that's not a factor anymore, as it turned out to be pretty destructive.
      This post is all over the place, I'm sorry. Trying to include a lot of details.

    3. Continued.
      I don't trust my instincts either. That's the worst loss of trust, because I felt I had competency with this in a way that served me well in life. This time it was right in front of my face but I couldn't accept the possibility that he would do this to me. It was just so contradictory to all the respect, attention and affection he treated me with throughout our relationship up until that point. It was so unexpected that I couldn't stand OWs justifications and expression of pain, as she acted like it was some big adjustment to not have him after being back in his life for only a few weeks. As if that's worse than making an adjustment from over 10 months of security and comfort with someone you love. It's okay though. I see donkey shows in her future.
      It's still really hard for me to understand it though. That he could even cross that line initially. I'm an addict, I get impulsivity. I get mistakes. But I've never cheated on anyone. In the few short-term relationships I had, even when I was planning on ending it soon, I would be confronted with the opportunity to cheat but I wouldn't even do it then. I never knew what it was like, but I understood that it's very painful, and understood it's too easy to avoid if it's really that bad. So even with my escape-fluency, this in particular is not easy for me to envision any situation in which I'd do the same thing.

    4. Better half,
      One of the biggest hurdles for we betrayeds is that our spouses didn't do this TO us. We struggle to understand how they could do this to us...when, for the most part, we're just collateral damage. Most of them think of us in the abstract, if at all. It sounds good but it generally comes to compartmentalizing. An ability to lock it away and believe that it somehow doesn't tough the rest of their life. A sort of "nobody gets hurt" mentality. Until, of course, somebody does and then they're baffled at what they did.
      You're applying the logic of someone who recognizes the pain caused by betrayal. Logic frequently doesn't apply at all in affairs. If it did, the fact that it needs to be kept secret would be the first clue that it should't be happening at all.
      I understand your resistance to groups, etc. My husband went for a year or so but the religious aspect ultimately put him off. However, I do think it's important for your SO to have some sort of sounding board to help him work through what can only be incredibly unhealthy ideas of family, commitment, trust, etc. Does he have an addictions counsellor? Parole officer? Social worker? I think it's important that it's not you.
      However you two decide to move forward, I think you're going to be fine. Your moral compass is clearly calibrated such that you've been able to maintain integrity despite your own addiction issues.
      I hope you'll continue to weigh in on this site. Our ability to share our own insights can be so helpful to others too.

    5. Thank you for your continued support. I understand what you're saying about collateral damage, as well as compartmentalization. The good news is that he told me quickly (though this was not the last time he had sex or had inappropriate encounters with her, he was seeing her during those couple weeks that he was "deciding"), but while the honesty was a good move, I have a hard time reconciling this with that mentality. I think he always knew he was going to tell me, and he did. So I don't know how to make sense of that, but I know you're not wrong. Compartmentalizing was a key word before I ever found this site; what I mean is I knew this from the beginning. His behavior and demeanor was so different, and I couldn't understand how he could possibly be so detached. He did recognize my pain and hurt to see it, but his reaction and continued behavior was disproportionate to what I'd been lead to believe in how he felt about me. And how we'd always treated eachother.
      I forgot to mention, the people in my life I've mentioned who know, are the ones who know because they were told by me or my father. His family also knew at the time because they were there and not blind. For all their faults, I was very lucky that the people in his life for better or worse, couldn't stand this bitch. Didn't even like her when they dated. His sisters and I are good friends, and if nothing else I at least felt very lucky to have their support. I mean they made it REEEAALLY clear. They liked me, they hated her.
      I wish I could get him into counseling of some sort. Right now I think he's just very consumed with work and treasures any free time. I'll look into meetings in the area though as it's less of a commitment. I just don't see either of us as being very compatible with abstinence-based strict 12 step meetings for a long-term program, but at least as a place to vent and get feedback it can be helpful. At least with meetings he'd be willing to go if I went with him as it is less demanding than therapy.
      I scheduled a therapy session for myself early on when this happened, but cancelled it the day of the appointment. I thought it was something I wanted at the time. And believe me, I'm very sensitive and not someone who can avoid feelings (without drugs at least), especially not something this big. I literally don't have space in my brain for that. But I guess when the day of my session approached I realized that sitting in a room for an hour straight and pouring them out to an impartial 3rd party just seemed terribly unpleasant and not something I was ready for when that vulnerable.

  13. I am going to throw this out there. My husband, I am convinced is a sex addict, although it took a very long time to manifest itself in our relationship. We met in a fairly sexual situation. On line dating. I was looking for a partner, he for a one night stand. I only went out with him because he was so very articulate and funny and smart. I also discovered he was a highly sexed person, and was dating numerous women. But when I was ready to break it off, he DID forsake all others and doted only one me. For about a million years. That was 15 years ago.

    We used to both enjoy going to places, as a couple, with a highly charged sexual atmosphere a couple of times every few years, while on vacation (strip clubs etc) although nothing was ever "done". we watched together, never had a lap dance, we were more voyers of watching other people. It really was a fun diversion. But that was 10 years ago.
    he eventually withdrew from me sexually about the same time, I thought it was due to a medical issue of his, and his ever so slowly elevating alcoholism. I figured he didnt want to have sex due to the medical and I did not want to have sex while he was drunk. But we were still, honestly best friends who loved each other very very much.
    After I found out about his affairs with sex workers I was FLOORED. Devestated. I never EVER thought it was in his DNA. We were so non sexual for those years, I thought he had lost intest in sex altogether.
    I had no knowledge he ever went anywhere without me, and he did not, until the last two years of our 15 year relationship. It's so odd how all addictions elevate, even slowly and it seems, eventually they lead to something full blown--- alcohol, sex, drugs, name it.

    He has been clean, sober and devoted to our relationship going on a year. Lots of therapy and changing how we relate to and communicate with each other. Cake walk? Um, no. To hell and back is more like it.

    Here is the issue: I was never much of a drinker, but I do miss having a cocktail on vacations. I was never one who loved needed to go to strip club, but I did like the "on the edge" feeling of seedy and sexually charged places. Red light districts, old NY times square, peep shows, sex shops etc.

    I know, according to Al-Anon, I can drink and be responsible for my life, his life is his life, mine is mine. However, I can't bring THIS up in Al-Anon and I do not have an SA group anywhere near me, Can I take him to a strip club? I am totaly serious and this is a serious question. I miss that little spark of something different. I would never go alone and I would never ever go with anyone else. The situation arose this past week, we were on vacation, we were in the district, it felt fun to me, like old times-- and in old times i would have popped into a club for a half hour without a second thought. I said no this time, not because I thought it would trigger anything in me (PTSD, rage, envy, the gamut) but I felt that THIS might be co-dependant/enabling to say yes and may have supported HIS old behaviour.

    We go to bars and restaurants where alcohol is served and drink sparkling water, sports bars and drink iced tea. No one notices, no one cares. He does not find it difficult at all to be around alcohol.

    Stippers though---I don't know if that's pushing it, if I am being stuffy for saying no (remember, this was never an issue for me before, he is not asking me to do anything outside of my comfort level) or an enabler if I said yes? I honestly do not know.

    1. My mother was a raging alcoholic. A 24/7 drunk who started her day with vodka in her coffee and ended it by falling down the stairs to retrieve her booze from her hiding place in the washing machine. When she got sober, it took Herculean strength to avoid booze. My dad's response was to drink in front of her. She managed to stay sober...but it was certainly NOT thanks to my father.
      In other words, your husband might be able to join you at a strip club and not go down that path, but you're playing with fire. Given that you've been to hell and back, I can't imagine why you might want to revisit it.
      Addiction is insidious. It's tough enough to fight your way to sobriety (and kudos to your husband for kicking booze) without a partner dangling your addiction of choice in front of you.
      I think you need to find some other way to activate that spark, that sense of naughty fun. Going back to your old haunts sounds to me like a one-way ticket back to hell.

  14. Elle
    That is actually a good point. ��

  15. Thanks Elle, after going thru a fantastic period of Hysterical Bonding and an increased and lasting libido, which was so wonderful to see and feel again, I can feel that starting to wane. I have searched endlessly for an answer on the strip clubs, and found one total blog where a SA said he and his wife go together a couple of time a year to keep it under controlled circumstances, now. I can find that nowhere else on the web, I thought i would run it by over here, this place has been my LIFELINE. It does feel like playing with fire. Like I said, i can go without the occassional drink. I miss it rarely. I am sure I can continue to go without a walk on the wild side, because those burn marks I have? Scars. and not pretty.

  16. Oh God Elle, 2 minutes after sending my previous message, I thought of your mothers battle. The same as my fathers. My mothers remedy was to buy him a bottle after his bouts of sobriety because he had been so "good". I thought for a moment on how stupid that was, and then realized that my contimplating going to a strip club is right up there in the genre of "the cycle". Although I would never buy my husband a drink, I was actually considering lettin him dance on the edge in another way. Wow. Deep stuff. Thanks for bringing up your story, which shook something lose in my brain. Wow again.

  17. While my husband's demons and child hood pale in comparison to many of your stories, the addiction theme runs high in our story. He is confronting himself as an addict- thrill seeker, party guy, love addict, escape artist, semi-alcoholic. I really appreciate your nailing the analysis of addict mind, Elle ("Addicts, as you no doubt know, are masters at avoiding feeling lousy"). Oh man is that true. Unfortunately, talking about the A, is verboten for my H because he feels lousy the minute I bring it up. He recognizes that, but whether the switch will flip so he can work through the feelings, remains to be seen. He still likens talking about the AP and the A, as taking an alcoholic to the bar. Not sure what to make of that...

    I have flipped a switch, though. I am looking at myself and my "codependent" behavior (not sure if I like that label). But it is helpful and feels far more empowering than hating him and his addictive behavior. It is still dawning on me that i am married to an addict and what it really means for him and for me. However, it does make sense in the scheme of understanding how we ended up down this road. In some respects, the A was just the pinnacle of his long standing personal issues. Issues that we both failed to recognize and I played into.

    Aaargh. This journey only goes deeper and deeper into a black hole...


    1. Ya know, MBS, it may feel like a black hole but from where I sit, you're shining a bright light on it.
      I too hated the co-dependent label. HATED it. But once I moved my ego out of the way, there was no question that I certainly engaged in "co-dependent behaviours".
      As for your husband's analogy about taking an alcoholic to a bar, I have to say "huh?" A huge part of recovery for any addict is owning up to the pain they've caused. It's the eighth step -- make a list of everyone who was harmed and be willing to make amends. Even in non-12-step recovery programs, a huge part of recovery is facing the pain we've caused. So I think he's got it a bit mixed up. What he's essentially saying to you is that "your feelings are making me want a drink, or a lap dance, or whatever my choice of escape is". That's HIS problem, not yours. That's for HIM to manage, not you. Your feelings are worthy of being expressed and, ideally, acknowledged by him. His inability to handle his own feelings of guilt and shame are likely what got him into this mess.
      Your job, however, is to keep yourself safe by examining your (ugh!) co-dependent behaviours and finding new ways to respect your feelings and needs. It's hard to do but has positive impact on every relationship in your life not least of all the relationship you have with yourself.

    2. Is your husband willing to goto counseling with you. That could bea safe place to discuss both of your feelings. It also help with the co-dependant feelings you have. It shows he wants to take steps to make the marriage better. I know I have seen some improvements in my marriage with it. My husband is also a semi alcoholic and his father is a full blown one. I noticed he drank more when he was in the affair and had to in order to tell me about it. I have noticed he also is drinking more whenever we watch something where there is an affair going on. Afterwards he wants to talk about how guilty he feels for hurting me and the ow. Do you find this with your husband as well that he is using alcohol to cope and make it easier to discuss?



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