30 March 2015

Qualifying My Happiness

Click here for some other really cheery rainbow photos. 

There are a few blogs I read that seem to be all sunshine and roses.  Occasionally the blog author will confess to a disappointment or a bad day, but then it seems they always qualify their negative experience with the words

“But then...”

For example.  “What an awful day, the kids were so naughty and I forgot my appointment and our dishwasher broke.  But then… my amazing husband showed up with Chinese take-out and a dozen roses.”

I feel like on my blog here, it’s a bit more dark clouds and noxious weeds, and occasionally I confess to moments of pleasure, but then I feel obligated to qualify them with “but then… my toddler pooped in his underwear and my husband acted out.”

I’m not quite sure at what point I began to feel ashamed of happiness.  But it seems that now, I’ve spent so much time in self-pity that I’m not sure how to enjoy happiness.  I don’t subscribe to the belief that happiness is the end-all, be-all object of my existence. Rather, I think sorrow and other non-happy feelings are meant to be part of our mortal experience, as teachers.  But as I’ve come to really accept anger and grief as guests at my table, I think I’ve left little room for happiness.

Who am I to be happy anyway? I’m the despairing wife of the sex addict, it is my identity and my role.  I am meant to forever be the pitiable victim.  And yet, even in my moments of martyrdom where I square my shoulders and accept that my circumstances simply are what they are, I’m still not quite feeling real happiness, but reluctant consignment.

Pete and I were discussing last night how this part of our lives can get so bogged down in the negative.  He was saying how his sponsor probably thinks his children are demons because all he ever says about them are his resentments.  And it’s true, I never think to call my sponsor when I’m basking in sunshine and my heart is filled with bliss.  I think to call her when I’m pissed or when I’ve been hurt or when things go wrong.

Lately I’ve been experiencing moments of real happiness.  I really love the place where I am living.  I really enjoy the ages of my children and their blossoming personalities. Even Pete and I are finding some common ground again to try to rebuild a relationship.

And yet each time I feel these feelings of gratitude and joy, I feel something pulling me back, telling me to hedge my bet or keep it to myself.  It’s almost as if I’ve forgotten how to be happy.  I've come a long way in learning how to sit comfortably in sadness.  So why can't I sit comfortably in happiness?


Post Edit:  As I've thought about this, it has occurred to me that I've spent a lot of my life faking happiness, and now to feel the things I've pretended to feel makes me a little uneasy.  Is it real? Am I being authentic?

Can anyone else relate?

19 March 2015

Is Your Husband Still Using?!

When I find myself obsessing about Pete's addiction there is a question I'm dying to ask all my WoPA friends. I want to call them up, spreadsheet at hand, and ask them all 

When was the last time your husband looked at porn?  And when was the time before that?

You know that feeling, when you're thinking that if you could just get your questions answered you would surely feel better about life?  If I could just hear that other husbands were still relapsing, surely I would find acceptance and peace.  

Fortunately I've made some progress and I don't obsess about Pete's addiction too often.  But Pete is still relapsing.  Sometimes he is sober for a few days, sometimes a few weeks, and other times he can go months without acting out.  

And here I am, still learning lessons about how I am powerless over Pete's addiction.  About how I can. not. make. him. change.  No matter how subtle I get in my codependency.  Last night I asked my therapist if I needed sobriety in my marriage.  He told me that he couldn't answer that, I would have to decide for myself.  To which I responded 

"I think I'm going to decide I need it."  

"Okay Jane.  But just remember, that if you need sobriety in your marriage, you might have to leave your marriage.  Because you are not getting it."  

Immediately I saw what I was doing.  I was giving myself another shot at changing Pete.  I was thinking-  If I tell Pete that I need sobriety in our marriage, then he'll have to get sober.  By golly THAT will be the thing that will make him sober. But it won't.  

In Al-Anon they teach that relationships can exist when the addict is still using.  This is really difficult for me.  But I'm exploring it.  It looks like this: 

Old boundary: If Pete acts out we don't have sex for one week. 
New boundary:  If I don't feel present and connected with Pete, I decline sexual advances. 

Old boundary: If Pete is acting like an addict, I emotionally and physically detach. 
New boundary: If Pete is unpleasant, unkind or grumpy, I don't need to be around him.  I can make my own plans, do my own thing.  

Old boundary: If Pete has a relapse, he sleeps in another room. 
New boundary: If Pete has a relapse and I feel upset, I practice self-care.  

This new way of having a relationship with Pete is terrifying and liberating at the same time.  It's terrifying because I am relinquishing so much [artificial/percieved] control.  But it's liberating because  I don't have to analyze his behavior looking for signs of recovery or addiction.  I just go with my gut, use my feelings to gauge how much I can trust and connect, and go with it. 

It doesn't mean that I approve of Pete using porn.  It doesn't mean that I'm in denial about his addiction.  It just means that I'm accepting my reality. I'm making a deliberate choice about having a relationship with my husband that is vulnerable and has inherent risk.  And I'm honest about how I can not manage his behavior.  

12 March 2015

My Foes


There is a hymn I've always loved.  Since I was a teenager I've always felt STRONG when I sing it.  Often the pianist will slow it down for the last first, and let the congregation really feel it as they sing

That soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, 
I will not, I can not, desert to [her] foes. 
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake
I'll never, no never, no never forsake. 

But I couldn't ever really figure out who my foes were.  I don't really have any real enemies to speak of. I'm certainly not fighting any kind of literal war.  So when God has my back, who does He have my back against?

The past couple months have had me reeling in self-doubt. I'm not sure where it came from, but all of the sudden I became painfully aware of my shriveled and suffering self-worth.  One day as I was walking, and listening to this hymn, it occurred to me that in my life, my foes aren't any awful people that prevent me from loving my life and myself. My foes are the voices in my head that tell me that I'm not okay the way I am.  The voice that tells me to be embarrassed of what I have, or don't have.  The voice that tells me to hide parts of myself around certain people.  The voice that tells me I need to change before I can be acceptable.  The voices that constantly over-think and over-analyze something as simple as a comment on Facebook or a message sent on Voxer.  Those voices are my own personal enemies.

And I started to cry, walking down the bustling streets of my city.  Why is self-esteem so elusive? My goodness it teases me!

Accepting myself, loving myself, sharing myself with confidence has become the object of my existence for the last few weeks.

On a somewhat related note, for International Women's Day some friends and I recited [most of] this poem in an assembly at our children's school.  It is so beautiful.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
I rise
I rise. 

(Still I Rise  - Maya Angelou.  Read the entire poem or hear it read, here.)