10 October 2013

When Did I Get so Mean?


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. 


  1. Over the years of my husbands pornography addiction I could feel myself becoming someone I didn't want to be. I would never treat anyone the same way I treated my husband. Anger is so hard for me. I've come to realize that there is always an underlying emotion, usually sadness. I too think it is OK to feel anger, though. When I allow myself to feel it, and even validate my anger, it tends to leave so much quicker. But sometimes in the heat of the moment.....
    I love your blog and admire your courage. I relate perfectly to so many of your posts. Thanks for sharing your experiences and helping those of us still too scared to express the goings on in our lives, even it is behind the protection of a computer screen.

  2. Thank you for this post. It really hit home with me as I have been dealing with very similar emotions lately, and a bit afraid of who I am becoming. *hugs*

  3. It is absolutely ok to be angry. I would be more worried if you weren't. A book I am currently reading has helped me understand anger - its uses and abuses - and forgiveness. I am only part way through the book and I am no where near where I need and hope to be on the forgiveness scale, I can highly recommend the book. http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Live-Forgiveness-Save-Your/dp/0785297251

  4. Those signs, the "red flags" that the SA isn't working on their recovery quite like they should can be maddening. It can take me days to realize I have to detach with love or I'm right there being baited just like you described. It's such an easy trap to fall into. I hate it when I do it. I know better and I still fall into. I have to focus on my recovery and not his during those times otherwise I drive myself nuts. I allow myself to get angry and either blog about it, journal it out or tell my S-Anon group. This was a great post. It really speaks the truth.

  5. I think thats how I felt so lost. Because I had become this way. I threatened him any time something was out of sorts. i was mean about it. But we are in a place where we ARE unsafe. ANd we are just trying to learn how to deal with this all the right way WHILE being true to ourselves. Its hard.

  6. Angry birds on your phone all day? Of course you would get an angry wife. Even marriages without this disease would feel the rift. The hard part is, the addiction shoots the stakes through the roof. The dominos topple faster, and we are left questioning why the heck we are even fighting for this marriage anyway. Take it one day at a time, there is a very good reason to keep fighting. Love you!

  7. I loved this post -- I've come back to reread it like three or four times now. It just really resonated with me. 'Cause yeah, all you're asking for is a bare minimum of what a marriage should be -- and yet I've had these same feelings in the past of it's ME who seems to be changing for the worst in all this (especially as he's grown in recovery) -- and I've had more than a few of my tear filled rants of how I was PISSED because he screwed up everything with porn initially, but how I felt like it was going to be ME and my trauma and my anger and my hurt that was going to destroy us and our family. So yeah, this post totally resonated with me. So much so.

  8. Add me to the list of people who love you. :)

    This is another one of those damn balance issues. I don't like who I am, I don't like who he is. Everything sucks and it's everybody's fault.

    But here's what I suspect: none of that part (the blame, the mistakes, the losing it on either side) matters. The part that matters is now. Today.

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