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our 20th anniversary: what’s to celebrate?

When my husband told his therapist that I didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary this year, the therapist was surprised. After all, that’s why I stopped going to therapy, I was doing so much better and didn’t need his weekly help. But doing somewhat well as an individual and wanting to celebrate our anniversary as a joyous occasion are two different things. I am pleased at the progress my husband is making, but I don’t feel a party-like atmosphere is in order. I am pleased at how well I am healing, but I don’t feel the need to exchange gifts. I told my husband that what I want can’t be purchased.

So my 20th wedding anniversary came and went quietly last week without a trip to Europe like I always thought we would take. We were out of town, at my parents’ home in sunny southern California. I had told my husband all month long that I didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary. I didn’t want a gift, didn’t want to go anywhere, didn’t want it mentioned really. (I was afraid my parents would wonder why we chose not to celebrate it so I did bake a cake in our honor, or at least that’s what I told them.)

Since our anniversary is at the very end of the year it’s always been kind of a ‘reckoning’ moment for me. Usually on my anniversary I look back on the last calendar year and think about all the great things that my husband and I were able to accomplish. I like to think about all the blessings we have and how we have grown as a couple. We always talk about our wedding day in Los Angeles. How hot it was for December; how there were 29 other couples on school break getting married that day; how we were the last couple to get married at high noon; how they closed the temple and I had to change out of my wedding dress in the visitor’s center tiny bathroom; how fun it was to go out to lunch, all alone, as husband and wife in Puente Hills while our families got the church ready for our reception.

But not this year’s anniversary. This was the year where I was robbed of all those good memories. This was the year where I stopped saying, and will never say again, “we really do have the best marriage, we are the best of friends.” I really was looking forward to turning 40 in the year 2014; it seemed like a hallmark of all the good in my life. But then in June it all shattered and I learned my husband had been a porn addict our entire marriage. All of it.

And as 2014 came to an end and all my friends who also married in December wrote lovely tributes on Facebook to their spouses I thought of my own imaginary post. “Happy 20th anniversary to my sweetheart; marriage is indeed hard but we love each other and we aren’t divorced yet.” But who wants to read that.

Here’s to my 21st year of marriage. May it be just a smidge better.

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i know he loves me but i need respect

Over the last six months my husband has told me countless times how much he loves me and how sorry he is for his years of lies. And several of those times I have said back to him, “I know you love me but I need respect.”

I have no doubt that my husband loves me. I have no doubt that he feels attached to me; that he is fond of me. But is love enough? Hell no, it is not.

Grungy Brick Wall

I need respect. And love without respect is dangerous; it can crush someone as the last six months have taught me. A person who is respected is seen as her own unique individual self; with the right to make decisions for herself, based on reality, not some fantasy façade of what he thinks would make her happy. My husband admits he never once told me the truth of his problem because he loves to make me happy and knowing this wouldn’t make me happy. That’s so sweet right? Not wanting to hurt someone is true love, right? Wanting to spare them any pain is love right? Maybe, but it is NOT respect. And if I had to choose between love and respect I would choose respect.

I suppose I am splitting hairs here because I do believe true love encompasses respect. But I know now that it is totally possible to love someone, to feel attachment and fondness, but not to respect them. A man who truly loves his wife respects her enough to be completely honest even if it paints him in a bad light; respects her enough to be truthful even though it may cause her pain; and respects her life decisions once she knows the full truth.

Years ago when Robin Givens talked about her abusive marriage to Mike Tyson she told a story I will never forget. She talked about how he would beat her and then within a few hours they would be hugging, cuddling, holding hands, and crying together. What the hell kind of nuttiness is that? I remember at the time thinking, “If he loved her he would’t have hit her in the first place!” Well, now my 40-yr old self gets that story. I so get it. Mike Tyson was indeed crying because he felt shame and remorse for what he did to someone he was attached to and fond of (love). So now I would say, ‘If he respected her he wouldn’t have hit her.” Huge, huge difference.

My husband never told me when we were engaged that he had a 10-year problem with porn/masturbation/lust. If he had respected me he would have known that nobody has the right to make decisions for somebody else’s life. And after a few years of marriage when I discovered part of his problem, he lied to me some more about the rest of the story because he didn’t respect me enough to think I deserved the truth. When my husband objectified me (and countless other women) as sex objects he did so because he didn’t respect me as a smart, educated, hard-working woman with her own ambitions and life dreams. It’s so patronizing and patriarchal to assume I need to be protected, coddled, and kept in a fantasy world of lollipops and sunshine. Thankfully with 6-months of sobriety he is beginning to respect me. The haze of addiction has subsided and now when I tell him I need respect more than love, he can see the difference and progress is being made.

Many thoughts in this post came from this amazing article.

refining myself

A few years ago I decided I wanted to accept my husband for who he is and not who I think he should be. (I didn’t know about his addiction then.) It took me over 15 years to decide that I could love him just the way he is, which, considering I am very independent I’m surprised it took me that long! I wanted to stop trying to change him. To make him into a man who would share his feelings. And to turn him into a romantic who would plan weekend getaways. He is never going to do that. Accept him for all his goodness and move on lady! After all, he listens to my feelings as I am the talker. He doesn’t like to talk about his feelings so get over it!

And as far as planning romantic getaways or even dates, he is willing to do anything that I plan. So plan it, quit being resentful that he never has and maybe never will, and move on. I have an amazing life and knew it was time to let some things go. I think infertility taught me that. That I can be completely devastated that Plan A didn’t work out but happily move on to Plan B. That’s what I was trying to do.

Then about a year ago I decided I didn’t want to be angry at him anymore. I am terribly impatient and highly driven. My hubby is calm, relaxed, and he will admit, a bit lazy. So I would often find myself getting angry at him because he wouldn’t mow the lawn when I asked; wouldn’t get out of pajamas before 10am on a Saturday; wouldn’t offer to do any DIY project around the house unless I got going on it first. He was my sweetheart, my eternal companion and I wanted to rid my heart of anger towards him. Not necessarily because he deserved it, but because I deserved it. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be resentful. So I found myself saying “This isn’t worth getting angry over. Calm down and move on.” And guess what? It was working. I was finally controlling my patience and my temper. Hooray!

Here I was polishing a beautiful car, rubbing out the dings, making the chrome shiny and beautiful. Basically, putting on the final touches to really make the car what it should be. And then I found out the car never had an engine. Or rather that my husband was daily taking an axe to the engine. I was spending loads of time and energy refining myself and guess what, I don’t regret it at all. Even if hubby didn’t deserve it, I deserved it.

 

why i stay

October is here. My maple tree is glowing red and everything around the yard is changing. I am changing too. I wanted to reflect on all the goodness in my life. Part of that goodness is my husband. Not just part of it, a very big part of it. So here’s why I stay despite the mess.

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I could leave this marriage if I want, I would be perfectly justified. But to leave all that would be to leave all this:

I stay because he is my best friend.

I stay because he gets me Tylenol and rubs my legs when they hurt. This is almost daily.

I stay because when we were newlyweds we made a pact–I would cook and he would do the nightly dishes. All these years later and this is still the case.

I stay because I told him when we were dating I hated to be tickled so he has never once tried again to tickle me.

I stay because he has never once told me how to run my business. He knows I am smart enough to make my own business decisions.

I stay because he helps me mail all those dang packages to customers. I never asked him to–he just saw that need and started doing it.

I stay because he fed our babies in the middle of the night even though he still had to get up early for work.

I stay because he learned how to install granite tile countertops in our old house when I couldn’t take the blue countertops anymore.

I stay because he has always given me wings to fly.

I stay because he has never once complained when I have been gone hours and days for church callings. From 3-hr meetings to 5-days at YW camp.

I stay because he makes the best crepes I’ve ever had.

I stay because he’s always had such a spirit of gratitude when paying our tithing. I’ll catch him saying things like “why have we been blessed so much?”

I stay because he’s the first to volunteer to set up chairs, clean the church, lock up the church, or chop wood for YW Camp.

I stay because he’s a doer, not a talker. Anyone can talk and make themselves look good. Not everyone is willing to serve humbly with no thought for recognition.

I stay because he helps me make school lunches and breakfasts every morning.

I stay because he’s always willing to be my sous chef in the kitchen.

I stay because he appreciates art and has taught me to appreciate fine art like etchings from Rembrandt.

I stay because he says women make better songwriters. He says women feel emotions more deeply.

I stay because he does 95% of the laundry–washing and folding.

I stay because he works hard for our family. He works as long as he has to and never a minute more. He’d rather be home with us.

I stay because he has never once told me I should change my hair, change my make up or clothes. He always thinks I’m beautiful.

I stay because when I make fun of my curly hair he never chimes in.

I stay because he is financially responsible–he’s a saver but also lets me buy nice furniture even though he’s perfectly happy with that ‘college dorm look’.

I stay because he doesn’t make fun of my silly exercise videos.

I stay because he listens to me always and has never ever once told me what to do. Ever.

I stay because he thinks I’m virtuous and trustworthy and he values my goodness.

I stay because he loves to read to the children.

I stay because he’s always been happy to say family prayer, read the Book of Mormon 10 verses at a time with the little children, and hold FHE.

I stay because he’s never said a negative word about the church.

I stay because even when I have said negative things about the church, he just listens and has never said I’m dumb for thinking that way.

I stay for a thousand more reasons.