I’ve seen and heard a lot about “needs” and “non-negotiables.” I never made a list of my own. I think it might have been out of fear. What if I write out a list of my needs, and then they aren’t met? What if my list gets trampled on or ignored? What are my options then? Divorce or insanity?
And I’ve always been a firm believer that it really takes very little to make a soul free and content.
On Tuesday I opened up to my older brother, who is the most compassionate and gentle member of my family. I’ve wanted to share with him for years and haven’t, at Pete’s request. When I told Pete, he was upset. I could see conflict in his furrowed brow as anger, shame and pain overcame him. He muttered a couple weak remarks and I did my best to listen with empathy.
The next day he acted out. He fell apart. He isolated and stewed and it caught up to him. But by some miracle when he confessed to me on Thursday morning about his relapse I was moved with compassion and love for him, and I was able to hear his confession without personalization or grief.
I thought about that quite a bit, about the space between how I used to respond and how I responded this time. Somehow, somewhere, some way, I closed that gap. I changed. I don’t know when exactly it happened or what exactly changed me. But I’m different.
I met with my new therapist that day. He is a CSAT. (Get one!) We talked about how it was OKAY that I had shared with my brother. I needed to do what I needed to do to heal. And my healing was in the best interest of my recovery, Pete’s recovery and the recovery of our marriage. He told me to stand up for myself. He told me that when I learned to have confidence in MY needs, I wouldn’t be manipulated by Pete or anyone else. He asked me to email him a list of my needs. I couldn’t get my head around that. What do I need to live? Water. Food. Sleep. He clarified for me, and suggested that I write what I need for my recovery.
Ahh yes. Okay. I need to be real with people I trust.
That night Pete and I went to the mattresses about my need to be vulnerable and open with safe people. I need to share my reality with people who will love and support me. When he started to throw out words like “inappropriate” I collapsed into an old me. That me that triggers when he sends any blame my direction. And I was angry. Why can’t I stand up for myself?
My dear Scabs sent me this message the next day as I was trying to process.
“[Pete] has been living pretty comfortably as a recovering addict. He goes to meetings, connects with his guys, connects with you and the kids, and he has you pretty much living and responding to his addiction the way he feels most comfortable. It seems like its only when you step outside of his prescribed boundary that he freaks out---out of his comfort zone and acts out. Maybe this is an indication that he has controlled the situation more than you realize. “
She nailed it. And as I thought about that it made me more angry. He HAS controlled me in this. He HAS manipulated me in this. My closest WOPA friends know that this has been a struggle from the get-go for me. Maybe they remember that first weekend we met when I sobbed about how desperately I needed to open up and Pete had me on a leash.
I was so angry on Friday that I have done so much work to leave Pete and his addiction and his recovery to him, I don’t question or judge or criticize his life anymore. Which is another gap I’ve closed from how I used to be and where I am. His addiction AND recovery obviously come at a personal cost to me, I make personal sacrifices. I’m not saying this to make myself look good, I just realized this week that I really wanted that same respect from him. If I am capable of doing it, he should be too.
And tell me, WHY was I able to hear him tell me that he had looked at porn and masturbated without flinching but the minute he tells me how I should or shouldn’t reach out to people, I fall to pieces?