Category Archives: The High Road

Am I Nice?

We all think we are a nice person, and when we act in an unloving way, we justify it by blaming the other person’s behavior. Sometimes we believe that by being “mean back” in those moments, we can teach them a lesson, or “inspire” them to change.

Mathematically, that equation simply doesn’t add up. It is impossible to use a negative action, like anger, to produce positive genuine actions, like love.

Maybe the other person’s behavior is intolerable, but when we use their behavior to justify being intolerable ourselves, we mold ourselves into that same ugliness we are trying to change.

To continue having a bad attitude because “someone did something you didn’t like” will only end up with us hating ourselves. We slowly become more and more like the person we despise. When we do not like ourselves, all we get is unhappiness, bitterness, loneliness, and neediness. So if you think about it, KINDNESS and LOVE always win.

Co-Parenting With The Enemy

It was about 6 years ago that I was, on a daily basis, exchanging hateful emails with my older son’s father about the divorce and custody issues. Sadly, we spent 5 whole years battling each other in what felt like an endless litigation and tens of thousands of dollars. The result was completely broken trust, hostility, and a very negative and hateful image of the other person. What once brought us together was tearing us apart, and the only one suffering the consequences was that precious thing in the middle- our son (but we couldn’t see that because our anger and fear was blinding us).

I could write pages and pages about the hateful back and forth we had for so many years, but I won’t. To summarize, it was two very bitter demons threatening and being defensive and overly reactive. Things were so bad, we had a court-ordered co-parenting therapist come between us to help us communicate, and even one year of that wasn’t bringing us anywhere closer to cooperating or co-parenting. Sadly, out of lack of trust and a deep hatred toward the other party, we signed our 30-page court order, and several stipulations and motions later, we were on our way to litigation-free co-parenting. It was a rocky transition, living without having our attorneys as the go-between. It required us to…(gasp!) communicate. Living with such a build up of animosity toward each other, for the first year, we didn’t have the capability of communicating, because everything that came off our tongue was laced in mistrust, anger, and fear. It was easier to just live off the “rules” (the court orders, motions, and stipulations).

It wasn’t until nearly 2 years later that we were able to be flexible when we couldn’t. What changed? We stopped seeing each other as the enemy and started (FINALLY!) seeing each other as our son’s “other parent”. But more than that, we started really understanding that the only victim in any of this was not ourselves, but our son.

That was hard because for the first several years we didn’t see each other as “the other parent,” but as “that horrible parent-wannabe that doesn’t deserve to breathe on this earth“. For a long time, both of us were rationalizing our own bitterness and defensive mechanisms as simply “protecting MY son” from “that evil person”. Changing that image was dependent on letting go of our pain, our sad stories, and broken expectations, as well as forgiving the words and behaviors that we couldn’t see were rooted deep in resentment and fear. While letting go didn’t come without a fight, slowly, little by little, we let go.

The awkward and humbling feeling of accepting that maybe  it wasn’t just the other person…but maybe I was also responsible for the hostility and inability to co-parent. What got me thinking, was, at one mediation appointment, the mediator said, “you can’t come to every decision with an automatic NO in your mind. You have to approach everything with an expectation of saying yes, and then consider what implications that ‘yes’ could have.”

The point wasn’t to be a pushover and say yes to everything, but to get us out of our habit as seeing the other person as the enemy and train our minds to WANT to cooperate and co-parent, even if we don’t get things exactly the way we want, and even if it means we have to be a little uncomfortable with the other person parenting in a way that we don’t see “to our standards”. Of course we have to consider safety. If the other partner is abusive, we are not going to jump into a “yes!” Fortunately, for me, my son’s father was not abusive (for clarification purposes, my current husband IS, but not my ex).

Eventually, we became flexible on things such as make-up days, exchange locations, and who buys clothes and shoes this time. Flexibility turned into cooperation, and cooperation turned into co-parenting. Co-parenting rebuilt the respect and trust we had toward the other parent. When I went through this most recent separation with my “new” husband, my “ex” was even supportive and helped in many ways like bringing dinners to the house so I didn’t have to cook, taking the dogs every other weekend so that I wouldn’t have to worry about walking them with the kids, and even providing emotional support with words like, “you’re a great mom to the kids” and “I’m sorry you’re going through that…I wish you could have made it work out…”

Still, 6 years of hostility and litigation tends to leave a bit of a scar. We still struggle with fully trusting the other parent, but our intentions are there, and the bigger picture is clear: It’s not about us, it’s about the kids. We both just want the best for our son. We both want to be an important part of our son’s life. We both want happiness and peace for ourselves as well. How we go about that may be different, but it should NEVER come at the cost of our son having to witness his two most favorite and important people in the world being unable to get along and co-parent.

We determined that being the “best parent” for him meant being the best co-parents. Co-parenting after divorce is hard enough, but it’s nearly impossible if you see the person as an enemy.

Now, I’m stuck reflecting on those days in bitter litigation from the ending of my first marriage. I move forward in what feels like a re-run from the past, forced to communicate with my current husband about our pending divorce and our baby’s future. What kind of child custody schedule will we have? How do we communicate? What part am I playing in preventing a positive co-parenting for him?

I have days when I wish I could just stop all of this and beg for my marriage back. I miss my husband, I miss our family. Unfortunately, the reality is he loved his addictions more than he loved me. He loved his addictions more than he loved the idea of having a family. That comes with tremendous sadness and the feeling of rejection, neglect, and abandonment… I was tempted to see my husband as the enemy. I was tempted to put all the flaws I saw in him as my husband (and human) on him as a father. If only he could get sober! If only… If only we could find a way to save our marriage… But the truth is, as much as I loved this man, the man I loved was too deep into his addictions to know, see, or want anything different than his choice of lifestyle. His addictions caused him to be abusive, angry, and neck deep engaged in dangerous sexual activities, alcohol, and gambling. And if he was that same person when our baby was under his custody, I would never know. Unfortunately, California Family Law doesn’t see a problem in that.

I was forced to conclude that I had two choices: I could spend the rest of my life worrying about it, full of anxiety and emotional stress, hypervigilance and being a nervous wreck all the time (all the while deeply hating and resenting him for exposing our child to such horrendous and despicable behaviors), or, maybe…. I could spend my energy elsewhere, trying to be the best mother I could be.

This was the only place I had my power. This was the only place I could make a difference in my children’s life. The more I look back on the years I spent in litigation on the first divorce, the more I realize that it simply wasn’t worth it.

I will never return to a loveless marriage, and I will never go back to my ex-husband, but what I learned out of the 6-year hell of litigation was that eventually all those angry bitter feelings go away and you are left with the reality of…what purpose did it serve? What purpose did it serve the kids? What message did it send the kids? What kind of skills did we teach them in building healthy relationships? What messages did we send to them about love? Family? Resilience? Forgiveness?

Or are we still stuck in our self-centered mind, defensive, offended, and bitter?

Sadly, addiction is a disease that has the power to completely wipe out any rational thinking. Addiction is the escape hatch from accountability and responsibility. It’s so powerful that it can kill your opportunity for ever really feeling any kind of meaningful loving relationship and it will tear at your soul with guilt, shame, and regret. But deep down inside that sad and confused soul is someone who just wants to be loved.

I realize now that so long as I see my husband as an enemy, my behavior and attitude toward him will reflect that. Deep down, I do genuinely fear the safety of my baby when in his custody. I worry about the exposure he has to my husbands endless line of prostitutes and escorts, his over consumption of alcohol, driving under the influence, and his reckless gambling. I genuinely fear for my baby’s life, physical, and psychological well-being. But like it or not, California Family Law generously puts the children’s lives equally in both parent’s hands, and in this case, I have no other choice but to pray to God that he will be ok… My power, unfortunately, does not lie in trying to force California Family Law to change their policies. It lies in being the best role model I can be for these kids.

One day, I hope to have the same cooperative, supportive, co-parenting relationship I have with my first husband with my current husband. Sadly, my husband doesn’t have to be cooperative or feel the same. He can continue to be, think, and believe what he does. We cannot control a lot of things, and that can be VERY SCARY and uncomfortable a lot of the time.  That is an extremely difficult pill to swallow, especially as a protective mommy. But I have hope that regardless of what my husband chooses to do in front of our baby, love will endure. Hope will endure. Goodness will endure. I have no other choice but to hope. The sooner I can take my part of this co-parenting role into a positive place, perhaps it will pave the way for the other parent to follow. And even if it doesn’t, I will have set an example for my children.

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Here’s a picture of my first husband and my baby, the son of my current husband, at our Annual Easter Egg hunt.

Everyone Can Be a Winner (Even the “Losers”)

The new audio book “The Book of Joy” about Desmund Tutu and the Dalai Lama (by Douglas Carlton) came out and I’ve been listening to it on my long commutes to and from work. This morning they spoke of the famous “Golden Rule” (treat others how you want to be treated) but expanded on it. The topic was about how suffering often leads to joy, and those that have little suffers, tend to complain more and not have much joy. They spoke of how those that suffer (and grow from it) tend to be more capable of maintaining calm in the midst of chaos, and it is this calmness that helps others find calm as well.

Then something clicked when they said, “You must LONG for the best of the other as you want the best for you…”

This meant that deep inside your heart, you had to genuinely wish for the other what you had genuinely wanted for yourself.

To clear myself from any resentment and negative feelings about the loss of my marriage, I have been praying every morning and night for my husband. Although he has left me, I pray that he gets everything he wants, and that he has lasting inner peace, profound joy, and an abundance of unconditional love. This thought did NOT come natural, and for the first few days, it was just “fake it till you make it”. My anger and hurt were too strong for me to actually feel that sincerely. Now, several weeks in, I can say I truly do wish that he receives everything he could possibly desire, and that he is head deep in inner peace, full of joy, and receiving true unconditional love. Why? Because he needs it!

Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman, in their book, “Love Your Enemies” explain it this way:

“Love wishes the real happiness of the beloved. It is a partner to compassion, which wishes the beloved not to suffer. If you think about it, it is highly rational to love our enemies, with LOVE defined as wanting them to be really happy. They are only our enemies because they think of us as preventing their happiness. If they become really happy without having to get us out of their way, then they will not bother being our enemies anymore. The more happiness they feel, they might actually come to love us….or at least leave us alone.”

Yes… This is what I wanted. If he couldn’t love me, at least I could hope that his happiness would be so overly abundant that he would no longer wish to hurt me, verbally attack me, and continue hurting himself and exposing our baby to his sex, alcohol, and gambling addictions (and the emotional negative repercussions that spew out of them). If he was truly happy, would he even want to have those dangerous and hurtful addictions? I bet he wouldn’t…

This thought process, connected with the “Golden Rule” got me thinking: If my husband saw me as the enemy, someone who had taken from him what was so important to him (to get a green card) was there some way I could some how get out of that “enemy spot light” he held me under? What in my behavior was contributing to his thinking that I had literally ruined his life? Granted, there are some things that just won’t change, like his narcissistic thinking that actually believes that me choosing divorce instead of staying in a sham marriage and accepting his cheating and lying was somehow an unloving thing for me to do. That aside, there had to be some way in which my choice of words, or my “method of communication” was coming off, to him, as insulting and offensive. Could there be a way in which we both were “winners”? I.e., can I say what needs to be said in a way that he doesn’t feel like I’m attacking him?

I’m not sure of the author, but I love the quote: ”

“I’m responsible for what I say, not for what you understand”

While this opens the door for me to say what is in my heart, it still remains a very hefty burden. We should always be mindful about what we say. Sometimes it’s not necessary. Sometimes it is not helpful. And sometimes, while we may believe it, it may not be absolutely true. Taking responsibility for our words, being honest with our intentions, and being able to identify what really needs to be said, and what can be left alone, we can then communicate with our best intentions and then leave the interpretation to the listener. If you get a “bad listener” (someone who is always defensive, deflective, or reactive) you have to just let it go. You did your best. If you get a good listener, even if they may take offense, the conversation opens up for a genuine understanding and hopefully, reconciliation.

Unfortunately, my husband is less than skillful in the listening department, but that only means that I can choose to be more skillful in the “delivering necessary messages” department.

Since our separation, my baby has come back from his father’s home sick 3 times. Once with the flu, once with Pneumonia, and once with a fever/cold. While my husband blamed it on everything but himself, my gut reaction was to blame him for not being more careful about where he took the baby, proper hygiene, his choice to refuse my baby my breast milk, and basic parental negligence. Is there a loving way of saying that? NOPE!

Instead of saying:

The baby got sick AGAIN. Every time he comes home from being with you he gets sick…you really need to pay attention to keeping him away from unhealthy places, people, and be mindful about proper hygiene…and for god’s sake, give him my breast milk! I worked hard at pumping all of that!

I could either say nothing and just take care of the baby, or if I really wanted to make it clear that the baby was sick, I could say:

Just wanted to let you know that the baby has a fever. I will take the weekend to let him rest and recover so that he will be healthy and ready to play the next time he sees you.

Here’s another quote I love:

“Since enemies engage our energies of anger and fear,
our main weapons against them are
wisdom, tolerance, compassion, and love.”
-Sharon Salzberg & Robert Thurman

In thinking about how much I long to feel respected, loved, and supported, what greater opportunity to show respect, love, and support!! I was always cringing when my phone went off, hoping, praying, begging the universe that it not be ANOTHER negative and hateful text from my husband… Yet, I too, was equally guilty of sending less than loving, self-victimizing messages. So there you have it.

“You must long for the best of the other as you want the best for you…”

WIN-WIN!

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Life Sucks…But Not All The Time.

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“Life Sucks…” was my initial thought after a few months after I made the decision to stay married to my sex addict husband. The idea of staying committed to a man that was psychologically incapable of refraining from infidelity sounded like insanity.

Learning of the endless betrayals, it is tempting to make some serious judgments about him, leading me to a great amount of bitterness, hatred, resentment, and thinking he is the lowest piece of scum on this planet. When I go “there”, there is no one (in my mind) who could be more sick, delusional, disgusting and mean than my husband.

Nearly three years into this insanity, however, I’d have to admit there have been more good times than bad, more laughter than tears, and more kind words than bad. But when it gets bad, it is baaaaaaaad, and in those moments, it feels like the level of badness far outweighs the level of goodness.

There’s this truth about life, however, that will always remain so long as we are humans on this Earth, and that is that although we make every effort to pursue and obtain a life of happiness, peace, and drama-free days, life is always changing, full of disappointments, loss, pain, and betrayal. It doesn’t matter who you are with. And while we can pick and choose who we spend our lives with (yes, we always have the choice and freedom to leave any relationship), we will always be presented with problems.

That’s life. And yeah, it sucks sometimes.

It’s easy to forget, though, that it doesn’t suck all the time.

Being married to an addict sucks (I don’t think there’s a soul in the world who would disagree with me), but that doesn’t mean my life sucks. What I’m coming to learn is that assuming life will always present challenges, how we grow through those challenges ultimately results in our strengthened ability to navigate through those challenges. I’ve learned more and grown more (spiritually, mentally and in so many other aspects) being married to my husband than at any other point in my life. Admittedly, when things are going great, I don’t grow at all. It’s very comfortable and I like to go to auto-pilot mode.

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I was in my ladies bible study last night. We had discussed the issue of lying and how lying was seen by God as equal to all other sins (I’m not trying to bring up a discussion on this, so please don’t tell me this is not true. I get that enough from my husband). I had told them how my husband kept lying and excused himself saying “at least I’m not doing really bad things like killing people”. I thought that if he saw that lying was not insignificant but actually very bad, he would stop lying (or at least try to be less dishonest).

One of the ladies stopped me and asked me about my own sin and how that compared to his. Ouch… That was like a slap in the face to reality. If I am saying that all sin is equal in the eyes of God, how can I complain that my husband’s sin is greater than that of my own? Am I saying that I am sin-free? I want to say that I am, but we all know that isn’t true. If all sin is equal, who am I to put the spotlight on his sin and off of my own? I wanted to say “well, at least I don’t repeat my sin like he does!” but it all goes back to “Who’s inventory am I taking here?”

Addiction is no joke. It’s got some serious consequences and it hurts people in so many ways. He’s got a ton of issues that he has to work on. But part of my “sin” (in addition to being super judgmental and holding an attitude of superiority) is me trying to act like God. When he sins, I feel justified in intervening, insisting on sharing my “insightful wisdom”. After all, his behavior does directly affect me, our marriage, and our family. That’s my excuse- my rationale for keeping the spotlight on him and off myself.

If I do put the spotlight on myself, I realize that although he makes choices that do hurt us, that doesn’t mean that I can’t work on my own issues and support him while he works through his. Maybe he can even support me as I work through mine. It’s no fun, for sure. Saying it sucks is far from being an understatement.

I have to remind myself often, “this is not personal…this is not personal…” even though it feels VERY personal. Oh how life sucks…sometimes…

But, not all the time. Assuming challenges never go away so long as we are human beings on this Earth, it is important to make the most of it. Some prefer pissing and moaning about the transgressions of another, because they are either too blind or self-righteous (like me) to believe they have issues to work on themselves, or they are Jesus/Buddha/Muhammad. I’m willing to put all my money it’s the former.

Yes, life can suck. Really, really suck… But serenity comes when we accept the things that we cannot change (and unfortunately, my husband and his behavior falls into that category). What I have learned is that, although I am perfectly justified to leave, since I have chosen to stay (for now) I have two options on how to make the most of my time. I can use this limited time on earth to focus on the transgressions of others, searching, controlling, and manipulating them to be, act, and say things the way I think they should (guaranteeing I will forever be disappointed, sad, angry, bitter, hurt, living in fear, insecurity, and darkness. There is no end.) OR I can spend this limited amount of time on earth focusing on my own issues (i.e., how I can be a better person, a better mother, better friend, a better driver, a better pet owner, a better money-spender, more honest, more authentic, more sensitive, etc.,) there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a sense of hope. Faith. Happiness. I feel like progress is being made (even if it’s just me). There is healing. There is freedom. There is life.

Plan Your Life As If He Will Never Change

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After our “Therapeutic Separation” my husband and I tried, once again, to work things out. While he was gone (2.5 months) I learned a lot about myself (one reason for letting him come back home). I learned that I was actually pretty controlling in many ways- being passive aggressive, stating my opinion even if it wasn’t welcomed or asked for, expecting (and almost always being disappointed) people to make decisions that I felt they should make, and getting angry when people weren’t able to keep their promises. I confused “controlling” with “demanding” and came to understand controlling is actually any kind of action (either through thought, words, or physical action) in which we believe we can change a situation or person from being/thinking/doing something different from what they would naturally be/think/do if we did not intervene.

While I was completely justified to be angry and expect that he change his behavior (stop acting out sexually, lying, cheating, deal with his addictions, verbally abusing us, etc.) it was never okay to hate him or judge him for not doing what I wanted him to do when he chose not to do it.

In summary, I realized the reason I was always so upset with my husband was because he wasn’t who I wanted him to be. He wasn’t doing what I wanted him to do. He wasn’t saying what I wanted him to say. He wasn’t thinking the way I wanted him to think. He didn’t see things the way I thought he should see things. I.e., he was “himself” and that pissed me off and I was set on patiently awaiting some miraculous Godly intervention in which he would someday (soon!) “see the light” and eventually become the person I thought he should be (like me)… (Yeah… I was pretty embarrassed when I came to realize that about myself).

That realization was truly humbling. What was more humbling (flat out embarrassing) was that once I realized this, I brought up the subject of us getting back together and “working it out”.  I mistakenly asked him to come home with this crazy notion that, “Aha! Now I know what I need to do! I must accept him for who he is! I must stop pointing out his flaws and THEN I will see him change on his own accord! I’m too bossy and controlling! THAT’S THE PROBLEM! All I have to do is stop being bossy and controlling and THEN he will become the person I need him to be!”

While it sounded pretty logical and smart at the time, it took numerous disappointments, cheating, and lying (on his part) for me to realize that wasn’t logical or smart at all.

We’re still married and still living together, but I think I may have figured it out…

Last night, after his bible study, he got into bed and whispered, “Now that I am working on honesty, I have to tell you something…” My heart started pounding loudly. The lump in my throat was painful. I knew what he was going to say. I expected him to tell me a half-truth story about another sexually acting out event.

Surprisingly, I was wrong. He told me that instead of going to work the day before, he went gambling instead. He’s done this many times before (lied about going to work only to spend the day at the casino). I sat with that and thanked him for being honest. I wasn’t mad at him anymore. Seriously disappointed for sure, but not mad.

I had been praying that all the stuff he was hiding would soon come to light. I had been praying that his truth would be revealed, and that he would grow spiritually and emotionally enough to seek a life of honesty. This is exactly what I was getting. How could I get mad?

Hearing him confess about the gambling, at this point, no longer triggered anger in me. Sadness, yes. But not anger. Not only did I feel it was an “answer to my prayer”, it also felt like just another piece of evidence to throw on the pile that told me my husband was not to be trusted (big sigh…).

I had to give it a day to really think about this new disclosure.

Who is being dishonest here? Him? Me? The answer was both of us. I pride myself on being honest. But the fact is I was being honest with everyone but myself. The fact is, I never saw him for who he was. I only saw him for what I thought he could be (and to my credit, he did say that he wanted to be an honest and faithful husband and father). But the reality is (and TRUTH was) that he is not that.

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I was living in denial, and I was making all my daily decisions, emotions, and future plans based upon that. And every time he acted out, lied, cheated, gambled, drank, verbally abused us, or whatever went against what I felt was “wrong” it was a slap in the face to me. He ruined my fantasy. He was crushing my delusion of being married to a “potentially honest man” and replaced it with my ugly reality of being married to a man that is incapable of honesty.

For the past 3 years, he has been consistent with his acting out and dishonesty. He has effortlessly maintained his status quo and has never failed to be the same man I married and had kids with. And for that I had no one to be angry at except myself.

The more I hold on to my delusions and false hopes of him changing, the more I hate not him, but myself. I’ve lost so much time, energy, and opportunities waiting for the day he chooses to love and respect me. I’ve gained grey hairs, stress, and shed far more tears that I thought could be contained in my small body.

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I’ve had and known the truth the whole time. I have options. I can choose to stay. I can choose to leave. But whatever option I choose, I am never justified in forcing a person to be that which he is not. I must not plan my life according to who he promises he wants to be, but plan my life according to the person he is. If I choose to stay, that will require me accepting that he will never change. If I leave, that will still require me to accept that he will never change. But life will always continue on, so I’d best make the most of it.

 

Playing Bad Cards

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We are all dealt our own unique cards in life. Some people get a good hand. Some get a crappy hand. But in the end, when the game is over, we all end up in the same place (dead). So how do I want to spend my time until then? I.e., how do I win with the crappy cards I was given?

Pissing and moaning about the dealer? Holding resentment towards those that seem to have gotten the better hand? Steal their cards? Cheat? Drink myself to oblivion or dive into other addictions so I don’t have to feel as bad about my crappy hand?

What if I have fun and play my best, no matter how crappy it may seem? I might not beat the others by wiping them out but I will win by finding joy that AT LEAST I can play.

I might find joy in the game simply by learning, growing, making friends, sharing our “secrets” to the joy-finding approach.

IN the end, I might even realize it wasn’t a game of me vs you or even me vs the cards. Maybe it wasn’t even a game.

Some people like to stay sitting at the table, hoping for a better hand. I admit, I was one of those people thinking that if I stayed in the game long enough, maybe my luck would change. Now I’m starting to realize there was only one player at the table and it was me! Life is too short to stay there!

Who is making all these rules anyway? Who assigned the value of the cards? Who decides if the cards in your hand are even crappy or not?

It’s time to live!

Forgiveness is a Process

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Forgiveness isn’t something you do. It’s a process you actually have to go through. Sometimes the process is short and can end with a simple “I’m sorry”, and sometimes it takes a long time.

Give yourself a break. If you are struggling with forgiveness, you don’t have to feel bad. Even paper cuts take time to heal. If you’ve been stabbed in the back, of course it’s going to take a lot longer to heal that one.

Daily Reminder: Forgiveness is a process.

When Trusting Another Violates Trusting Yourself

After continued affairs, my sex addict husband would come back every time with remorse, regret, and even confidence that “this was the last time”. Every time I wanted to trust he was telling the truth. Every time I was disappointed to learn that it wasn’t the last time. And it hurt to believe there may never be a “last time”.

The person I wanted and needed to trust more than anyone else had betrayed my trust time, after time, after time. He had put my emotional, physical, and financial safety at risk repeatedly. Deep down inside I knew I could not trust him. It was not safe to trust him. Every year a new STD. Every month a new “disclosure”. Every apology forgiven.

I did my best to trust him. I needed him to be trustworthy. So I  tried to convince myself that he was trustworthy- he was just making bad decisions. It was a disease. It took time. Things would be okay…eventually…

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Looking back, I realize that the problem was never about trusting him. It was about violating the trust I had in myself, my ability to connect with my intuition, and listen to my gut. Yes, I knew he was not trustworthy. I knew that the first, second, and 12th time he acted out, and each and every time he hid things and lied about it.

With the facts staring me in the face, the problem was no longer about him. It was me. I was the one not acting on the messages my heart and soul were trying to send me. I was ignoring myself. It was not safe to trust him, for sure. But it was no longer safe to trust myself. I failed to trust my own judgment of when it is not safe to trust another.

I mistook “trust” with “obligation”. I thought that if I forgave him, it meant I had to forget about what happened. I had to continue on as if nothing had happened and just “trust” that things would be okay. I was mistaken. A hard lesson learned:

IT’S OK NOT TO TRUST SOMEONE.

Even when trust is broken, it’s ok to have boundaries. It is ok not to fully trust them right away (or ever). It doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It doesn’t mean the relationship is over. It doesn’t mean that you have to sit  back and allow this relationship to continue as an untrustworthy relationship. You don’t have to be naive. You don’t have to pretend things are ok. If you’ve been hurt, traumatized, and betrayed once (or even several times), know it’s ok to be a little cautious moving forward.

Granted, you don’t have to be rude, condescending, or remind the person that you don’t trust him/her. You don’t have to keep living in the past and holding them accountable for the pain you are feeling.

You have to own your own healing and recovery,
regardless of who did what to who.

What you do have to do is start being honest with yourself. What do YOU want? What do YOU need? Really dig and do an internal inventory of yourself, your emotions, your role in all of this. Once you realize that although this person may not be trustworthy, you have (and always had) options. Allow yourself to trust your instincts. You can then make a decision to either leave, or finally make some healthy boundaries (and stick to them!) If you cannot start making and maintaining healthy boundaries with people whom we know we cannot trust, how can we ever begin experiencing real trust – the trust we have in ourselves: the trust that we will protect ourselves and take care of ourselves when we sense that we are not safe.

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You can’t make the other person change to become more trustworthy (say that to yourself a hundred times if you must), but YOU have what it takes to deal with it and move forward. You have the resources inside you to make good decisions for YOU. So start being rigorously honest with yourself. Make decisions that keep you safe and healthy. Stop putting yourself in situations that are not good for you.

Dig deep because the roots are long, thick, and covered in mud.

But through this practice, eventually, you will regain your own trust back. You will learn to trust yourself again. It will be very clear what you need to do, how you need to do it, and when.

Trusting Technology Over Your Sex-Addict Spouse: When is Snooping OK?

When a Co-dependent spouse/partner is in recovery from the trauma inflicted by a sex-addict, we eventually learn the hard way that our hypervigilant behavior and snooping are actually triggers that pull us further away from recovery and serenity, rather than push us towards it. Throughout our entire relationship, I never doubted my husband. The thought of snooping on his personal accounts and devices never even crossed my mind. After the discovery, however, I found myself suddenly addicted to snooping. I was questioning everything, being passive aggressive, and constantly over analyzing everything from the smallest face twitch to the one or two minutes he was late coming home. Being tech savvy, I was able to monitor everything about him, from where he was, who he was texting/calling/emailing, what sites he visited, for how long, and how long he was doing what and where. I had passwords to all accounts (that I knew of) and spent endless hours secretly checking up on him. Since I could no longer trust him, this hypervigilance was, at the time, my only way to feel safe and sane. From my point of view, I was completely within reason to do this. To him (and everyone else) it was sick behavior.

Regardless of how people saw me, I still kept it up. Technology had been my security blanket. It provided me with the truth and transparency I wanted and needed if I were to stay married to a sex-addict. But while technology provided many benefits, it had some serious cons to it as well. The biggest con was that it couldn’t stop him from acting out, and there were still so many things it couldn’t tell me.

So what is that fine line between trusting technology over trusting your sex-addict partner? In this piece, I wanted to go over the role technology plays on both ends, the addict and the partner.

Technology’s Role in Sex Addiction – The Good And The Bad

Technology has increased our ability to see things immediately and in real time. Addicts can view porn, hook up, and contact acting out partners easier and more discreetly. While partners often learn of these addictive behaviors because of the trails left behind on the addict’s technological devices, the benefit to technology is that the partner can also cover up his/her snooping and hypervigilance.

Technology isn’t all that bad though, when it comes to addiction. Recovery has also become more readily available, thanks to the privacy and convenience of smart phones and online methods such as virtual 12-step meetings. Now the addict (and the partner) have no excuse as to why he/she cannot take a more proactive role in seeking the necessary help, because when meetings are online, we can’t use lack of transportation, time, traffic, etc. as an excuse to miss the meetings. With Kindle and Google, we can’t use the lack of resources either. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of free to low-cost books, journals, YouTube videos, and more out there to help addicts and partners begin the journey of recovery.

Additionally, thanks to the convenience of smart phone technology, one can reach out to a sponsor or support group immediately and in real time via phone call, email, or texting. For both addicts and their partners, there is a handful of helpful resources that facilitate sobriety, such as recovery chat rooms, fellowships, newsletters, blogs, and apps for recognizing triggers, learning new techniques to manage those triggers, and even virtual headsets to allow them to role-play their way out of triggering situations.

With all this technology, it can be tempting to retreat into a virtual “self-made” recovery. I’ve met many people on my own recovery journey who have attempted to create their own “recovery program”. What I have learned is that recovery is not, and never will be, a “me” program. It is, and always will be, a “we” program.The thought of joining a 12-step group or an alternative recovery program can seem daunting and overwhelming for many. But it is only through professional help and a support group that is knowledgeable and experienced in the situation can true recovery begin.

Joining a support group and seeking professional help is the first step. The next step? Trusting the process. Just like we can’t completely rely on technology as a singular addiction recovery method, trusting your partner isn’t something that can change with technology either. Although it seems contrary to what we would like to believe, the more you have access to or can see, will not equal the more trust you can have in your partner.

Trust is an inside job and is not solely dependent on the other person, but largely dependent upon yourself and the boundaries you put in place to protect yourself. Admittedly, even before we had all this wonderful technology, sex-addiction has been around since forever and the pain it causes the partners has existed for just that long. As a result, snooping, in whatever shape or form, was likely a behavior that happened regardless of technology, just like acting out is a behavior that will happen regardless of technology. In other words, whatever tool we use to justify our desire to “know everything” (in an effort to feel safe), hypervigilance and snooping does not help ease the pain, minimize the feelings, or assist in fixing the problem. It only adds to the pile of problems (insecurity, lack of trust, and additional acting out).

What I learned in my own recovery (and addiction from hypervigilant behavior) was:

  • Snooping is a trigger to further codependency/trauma. It’s like picking at a wound. It doesn’t speed the recovery. It prolongs it.
  • Trust is a two-way street that depends on both the addict’s transparent behavior, and the partner’s commitment to allowing the addict to “earn back” the trust that was lost (although we must both admit and accept that it will never fully be restored).
  • Transparency is vital in the recovery of both the addict and the partner. There can be no secrets, withholding of information, or hiding.

So if we can’t snoop, where does technology fit into the co-dependency recovery model?

For a long time I tried desperately to find a reasonable, rationale, and justifiable answer to this question because more than anything I really, really, really wanted to keep doing it! I refused to let go of my security blanket. Although I couldn’t justify my secretly snooping on my addict-partner, I could justify the snooping. The answer was that it depends on your intention for use.

  • Are you using it to catch your spouse? Are you using it to “prove” he is acting out? Are you using it as an alternative to have meaningful and direct conversations about your concerns and feelings? Are you using it because you simply have zero trust in his ability to be honest with you, and you feel you can only trust the information this technology and/or device is sharing with you? If your answer is “yes’ to any of these, it would be wise to reconsider the relationship, and put all that extra energy into your own personal recovery.
  • Is it ever ok to snoop? It is my belief that the only time it is ok to snoop is in either 2 situations:
    • 1) Your spouse (the addict) knows that you are “snooping” (in this case it wouldn’t be called snooping, but more like “obsessive monitoring”, which still seems to be a bit extreme and not beneficial to your, or your partner’s recovery), or
    • 2) (if you are in a 12-step recovery program) your “snooping” is a slip that you can (and do) report to both your accountability partner/sponsor and your spouse (whom you have been snooping on). The caveat is that you have to make an honest effort to stop doing that and work with your spouse on how to avoid those triggers in the future. So unsettling for a compulsive snoop such as myself…

Ultimately, snooping shouldn’t be necessary in a healthy relationship. If your relationship requires you to be constantly snooping, questioning, and doubting, you shouldn’t be in that relationship. But for whatever reason, you choose to stay in a relationship that is deficient in trust/transparency, having a mutual understanding that there is NO PRIVACY if the relationship is to continue until the relationship gets to a point in which recovery is visible, and both partners come to an agreement that the “snooping” doesn’t need to continue.

It is important to note that the lack of trust doesn’t necessarily mean that it was caused (or lost) due to the addict’s acting out behavior. While the acting out behavior may have started a pattern of hypervigilant behavior in the partner, often times it is caused by something within the partner’s own life history. This is why in addition to the addict actively in recovery, a partner’s personal recovery is absolutely necessary if the relationship is to survive.

 

Taking Things Personally When It’s Personal – How Relationships Suffer Through Differences in Reality

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One of the greatest sources of suffering in a relationship is our refusal to accept our differences. I’d be willing to bet the fastest way to end any relationship is to determine in our mind that our reality is either better or correct compared to another. The fact is, sometimes people do things that hurt us. Sometimes it is physical, and sometimes it is emotional. While the pain we may have experienced is real, however, rather than focus on what harm the other has caused us, I believe what is really important is the intention behind it.

How do we know the intention was to cause some kind of pain? Maybe they did it to make themselves feel better, bigger, stronger, more powerful, less scared, more secure, smarter, or maybe it was even done for something more complicated, like addiction or some other mental health issue. Maybe it was an accident. Who knows?

Where we often get stuck is when we decide that we know what their real intentions were, but until we develop some serious ESP powers, there is no human alive that can know what another person’s true intentions are. That is why we have to communicate in order to find out. That means having an open mind and calming down just enough to get ego and emotions out of the way. Communication doesn’t happen- in fact it CAN’T happen- when either of the parties is either flaming mad or already decided that he/she is right and the other is wrong. Maybe they are, but maybe they aren’t. That’s what this communication thing is for. The goal isn’t to determine who is right and who is wrong, but respecting how both are right in their own way, and how to move forward with the differences.

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Ironically, however, it’s important to acknowledge that whether you know it or not, you have hurt people in some way as well, and for as long as you may live, you will continue to hurt people even if you don’t mean to. That is the nature of our existence as humans. We may not have done it on purpose but conflict is the natural result of living in a world with someone other than ourselves, and in a world of so much diversity. You simply cannot exist without having some kind of impact (good or bad) on another living being, and the conflict (or love) that arises out of it is simply two different things bumping into one another. The result is either an attraction or avoidance.

Unfortunately, on Earth, difference is unavoidable, and it is good! Just like light and darkness, warmth and cold, polarities all serve a very important purpose in the world. Remember though: while we may have a number of differences, we also share a number of similarities (good and bad).

In our relations with other living beings we also have a polarity of intentions. Either we have good/loving/caring intentions or bad/hateful/harming intentions (and sometimes no intentions at all). I would like to believe I always have good intentions, but the truth is sometimes I don’t, and I doubt I’m the only one.

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Understanding intentions can be really hard. Sometimes our emotions or ego can scream so loudly that we can’t hear what’s truly going on behind our actions. But if we can get ourselves back to that calm state of mind and identify what our intentions are, we can make better decisions on how to move forward by taking an honest inventory of our own intentions. I recently had a big fight with my partner and the old me would have threatened everything, blindly believing that my threat was my way of expressing my feelings, stating my bottom line, and saying “NO!” to inappropriate behavior. “I am being assertive!” I would proudly convince myself. In reality, my intention was to get him to stop doing what he was doing. My intention was to change him so that I could have what I wanted (and to remind him of how right I was and how wrong he was).

In the moment of intense emotions, and when ego steps in, our ability to connect with our true intentions (and feelings) is completely destroyed. Identifying our intentions means being excruciatingly honest with ourselves and others and that means putting all those hurt feelings aside and looking at the situation from a different perspective. Impossible? No. But definitely a challenge. And if it’s hard for us to identify our intentions right away, it most certainly is for others as well. That said, when you do get offended or hurt, don’t jump to conclusions about what the other person was trying to do or say.

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If we were to break it all down, basically when we end up bumping into our contrasting parts (i.e., any other living thing), the biggest problem is that we look at the other person’s behavior as either a complement to our goals or an interruption, and naturally end up taking it personally. If they did something that helped you, or made you feel good, you saw them in a positive light. If they did something that was unhelpful, disappointing, or set you back, you saw it in a negative light. But if they did something great, can you call them great? Then when they fail, are they no longer great? Keep in mind, even when people do awesome things for us, we still should not take it personally. That’s right, even when they treat you like a queen/king, unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that you are one.

But what if their action was personal? What if they intentionally did or said something to you that was meant to hurt you? Well, first of all, how do you know? Did they say directly to you that their intention was to hurt you, demean you, and cause you some kind of pain? If they knew that they were hurting you, would they do that?

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I remember a quote by Don Miguel Ruiz about taking things personally:

“Taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that the whole world is all about ME.”

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Even if the other person’s action was an intentional attack upon you, it has absolutely nothing to do with you. While they have no right to try and change you, similarly, you have no right to change them. The only right you have is to assertively and kindly express your reality and leave it at that.

To put so much power onto another person by allowing their behavior to affect you, you have put all your trust into something outside of yourself. In a sense, you are saying, “my reality is determined by what you do or say to me.”

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not easy to just let something go, especially when the person you are at odds with is someone you love very deeply. We don’t want to end the relationship. Nor do we want to continue feeling so sad from the result of our loved one’s actions. So what do you do when you aren’t in danger and you don’t necessarily want to end the relationship?

Boundaries

Boundaries.

Creating healthy boundaries is only something you can do and can actually be a gift to the other person (even if at first they don’t like it). When you make clear what you are willing and not willing to live with, you have given the other person the gift of clearly knowing what you need in order to maintain that relationship. Then they get to choose if they can live with that boundary. If they choose to deny those boundaries, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It means they have chosen to end the relationship.

Boundaries aren’t demands that state what the other person can and cannot do, and your boundaries aren’t for them- They are for you.

Boundaries are like traffic lights that tell you when you need to stop, be cautious, or go forward. Others aren’t responsible for your boundaries. Only you are. Just like driving a car, you are the driver of your life. It’s your job to identify the boundaries you need and maintain them.

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After that, whatever happens is up to you. And that’s a good thing. Because it means that you are choosing all of this for yourself (freedom from, or acceptance of a given situation that was caused as a natural result of living around other living things). You are not a victim. You are not entitled to anything. Nor are you right and the other wrong. After establishing your boundaries, if you choose to run an obvious red light, the end result is on you.

In the end, all you can ethically and realistically do, if you have created and kept your healthy boundaries, and the other person still failed to acknowledge or respect them, is stop complaining and walk away from that person completely. It really is that simple.