Last Sunday I watched Pete slip out of recovery. I could see it happening before my very eyes. The signs might be different for our addicts but we know them. After cycle and cycle and cycle. Maybe it's stress, maybe it's angry outbursts. General irritability with the kids. I like to use the words "compulsive" and "indulgent" behavior.
On Sunday he zoned out with Angry Birds on his cell phone. He skipped his meeting and watched football. These things filled my heart and thoughts with hurt, resentment, fear and flat out anger. I banged around in the kitchen and invited Insanity to join me. Finally I couldn't take it. I threw my own recovery out the window and went after him, guns a-blazin'!
It didn't go well. He said some of his usual things, things I thought we were done with, and he said some new things. Phrases like "you've taken this too far" and "what's the point of my recovery if you're going to blame every little thing I do on addiction?!"
It got to me. I couldn't walk away. I'd taken the bait. I threw "separation" on the table like a winning poker hand and I wasn't bluffing. I played the "safe" card as trump. I would be safer if we separated because then he couldn't blame me for anything. (Which isn't true, addict brains can always find a way to blame.) The conversation was intense.
At one point he drew back the curtains to his soul and I saw real pain in his eyes.
It was both heart-breaking and infuriating.
Finally when we were both emotionally defeated I dropped my weapons and I asked him to sleep in another room.
Pete texted me the next day. He owned it. He apologized.
A day after that, I had a chat with a new counselor. (I'm therapist shopping because mine changed her schedule and it won't be able to accommodate me. Big huge disappointment.) He validated me. He reassured me. He helped me feel sane again.
I'm asking for a bare minimum in our marriage. I'm asking for a relationship free of porn.
But I'm also asking for him to show some superhuman strength to earn my trust back. I tried to think back on a time when someone attacked me, guns blazing, and I responded with patience and meekness. I nearly always get defensive. I'm quick to put my guard up. It sucks to be accused. Regardless of the truth of the accusation. I'm human. He's human.
My therapist drew this diagram on the white board in his office. (I am so sorry for the poor quality of my diagram. Graphics are NOT my strong suit.)
He explained to me that watching football or playing Angry Birds aren't inherently bad activities. The pornography addict would say "Why are you so upset, I haven't even acted out?"
But if an activity makes me feel unsafe it has crossed a boundary. (These terms aren't technical, just words my therapist used to make a point.) In that first circle I am unsafe because I am that much closer to the second circle. Pornography and mastur-B are the second circle. They are boundary violations.
It was okay for me to tell Pete that I wasn't comfortable with his behavior, that it made me feel unsafe.
But I've been telling people lately that I believe anger is okay as long as it isn't used to mistreat people. I DO believe this. But apparently I misunderstood my own advice. I mistreated Pete. I was cruel and aggressive.
I am so glad I've learned to trust my gut. I'm so glad I've been able to relinquish any responsibility for Pete's addiction. But sometimes I worry that I've swung on the pendulum too far to the other extreme. I exempt myself from any misbehavior. I get a free pass because I'm the victim.
But the bottom line is, no one feels good when they are cruel or unkind. Victim or not. Justified or not. And, in that sense, I'm a little concerned about the person I'm becoming.