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One Year of Sobriety

It’s been a whole year now. A year since my amazing life was shattered like a vase dropped on concrete. The shards of glass went everywhere; some pieces may be gone forever and I am not sure yet if the vase will ever be like new again.

My husband knows better to approach me with a celebratory smile and say “I have a year of sobriety!” He did that at month 10 and it ruined my day and led to a fight. I told him that would be like me coming home and saying “I haven’t robbed a bank in year!” He would rightfully look at me and say, “You shouldn’t have been robbing them in the first place. This is no celebration, it’s a time for quiet reflection.”

So on the eve of my husband’s year of sobriety, here’s what I am “celebrating”.

1. It’s been a whole year of tears. Tears on my bathroom floor, tears in the shower where I can wail and my children won’t hear me, tears on my pillow, tears on my knees, tears of anger towards my husband’s lies. Tears at church, tears at the temple, tears as I told my parents, tears as I yelled at my Bishop for letting my husband off Scot-free.

2. It’s been a whole year of waking up and remembering, “Oh yea, this is my life now.”

3. It’s been a whole year of education and learning a whole new vocabulary to words like boundaries, triggers, betrayal trauma, etc.

4. It’s been a whole year of going to church and trying not to cry at all the lessons on sin, priesthood, and forever families.

5. It’s been a year on my knees pleading and begging God to please heal my heart now and wondering why healing is so very slow from one who is perfect and omniscient and omnipresent.

6. It’s been a year of making up excuses for the kids as to why dad is gone so much every Tuesday and Wednesday night now.

7. It’s been a year of mourning the loss of my marriage. The marriage I thought I had for 19 years has been replaced by a broken one.

8. It’s been a year of mistrusting my best friend.

9. It’s been a year of praying for the gift of discernment, telling God that obviously my liar meter is broken so I need discernment, I need a spiritual gift, if I am going to stay in this marriage.

10. It’s been a year of avoiding most friends and acquaintances and slowly deciding to confide in a few.

11. Its’ been a year of crying with my new friends, my fellow sisters whose hearts have been broken as well. The “sobbings of their hearts ascending up to God against (their husbands.)….hearts dead, pierced with deep wounds.” (Jacob 2:35)

12. It’s been a year of looking in the mirror and saying “I’m still standing, I am strong.”

13. It’s been a year of realizing that true peace comes from trust in God and in his timing and knowing that my future is bright, no matter my husband’s choices.

14. It’s been a year of counting my big and little blessings. From realizing I have amazing supportive parents and siblings to thanking God for a jacaranda tree in all its glorious purple blooms.

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14. It’s been a year of realizing that as humans we can sure mess up our lives and the lives of innocent and knowing that Jesus Christ is our only hope. Only he can fix the messes we make.

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.

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.

sin is never ever a good idea

One of thee worst phrases in all of Mormondom is “You chose this trial.” I have heard this phrase many, many times from well-meaning but ignorant people–especially when we found out we couldn’t have kids. Somehow assigning some nobility to my suffering made them feel better. Well, that stupid phrase never made me feel better. Someone has watched Saturday’s Warrior one too many times if they believe we chose everything before we came to mortality. I don’t even care if it is (I doubt it) true because that doesn’t help me get through today’s troubles. It’s akin to rubbing my face in a bowl full of pain.

The second worst phrase in all of Mormondom, the one that makes me bristle because it is so common, is: “I am grateful for my trials.” Now I believe you can be grateful for the lessons you learn from trials; I believe you can be grateful to feel God’s love for you so acutely in your moment of suffering that you can never again doubt His, or your divinity. And maybe when the trials are just a part of everyday life you can be grateful for the actual trial, but I do not believe for one minute I need to be grateful for the sin that, unbeknownst to me, has been a part of my 20-yr marriage.

I will never, ever be grateful to know that my husband is capable of lying to me.

I will never be grateful to know that my husband has seen and lusted after thousands of naked women.

Sin is never a good idea and we don’t have to go looking for it, nor love it to prove that the Atonement works. As Elder Holland has said, “We don’t have to look for sorrow. We don’t have to seek to be martyrs. Trouble has a way of finding us even without our looking for it.”  Bingo Elder H.

men are that they might

To be grateful for this filthy trial that my husband chose (God did not send this to me) would be to be a martyr, happily suffering because of his misuse of agency. We just read this scripture from 2 Nephi 2:27 with my children the other night “…..men are that they might have joy.” We are supposed to have joy in this life–we are not here to embrace suffering as martyrs because of someone else’s sins. The Gospel makes me happy, sin does not.

Martyrdom is overrated.

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.

 

addiction is an enigma

I have decided that I simply don’t understand addiction and I never will.  I do not understand the desire/need/urge to do something compulsively, day after day, year after year, for one’s entire life.

In my “regular” brain, addiction seems so foreign because who wants to eat cereal for breakfast every day, year after year? Sure you can vary between Cheerios and Cornflakes, but I can’t imagine the compulsive need to eat cereal everyday. Give me scrambled eggs! Give me pancakes! Who compulsively wants cereal everyday? I’m sure this is a totally flawed analogy thus proving I just don’t understand addiction.

More specifically, here’s what I don’t get:

1) I don’t understand the need to look at naked people, or to imagine people naked. I really don’t think there is anything that beautiful about a naked person. Now a woman with a crisp button down shirt, a cashmere sweater and colorful scarf, leather boots and a handbag? That’s beautiful! A man with a finely tailored Italian wool suit? Handsome! Everyone looks better with clothes. Everyone!

2) I don’t understand the fetish with breasts. A friend of mine caught her husband ogling another woman’s chest.  She would say to him, “You know they’re just milk producing mammary glands. Half the population has them.” Bingo! I mean I don’t have a fetish looking at a man’s butt or crotch. Or elbows. Or knee caps. (My friend is now divorced by the way.)

3) I don’t understand the need to masturbate. In fact, I had no idea porn and masturbation were linked together until a few months ago. Yea, I know, how did I not know that. Naive! I’m 40 years old for crying out loud! In my defense, nobody talks about it. (My hubby sure never mentioned it!)  I never heard it mentioned at church as a teen, I was never asked by a Bishop if I do it, I don’t talk about it with friends when we’re at the park pushing our kids on the swings. Why would anyone do that? I’ve heard all the jokes about it on sitcoms but they always refer to masturbation as something you do when you don’t have a significant other to be sexual with. Not that it is ever okay, but I never thought married men (or women if I am being fair) do such a thing. I told my husband when he finally started confessing his double life to me that I would rather chew glass than touch myself sexually. I can’t even give myself a foot rub or a shoulder rub–it just doesn’t work, I would be doing all the work, I wouldn’t enjoy it. I simply don’t get masturbation. I never have, I never will. I can’t even type about it anymore. Foreign!

I don’t think my failure to understand addictive behaviors affects my ability to be a supportive spouse. At least my husband hasn’t said so and we communicate about everything these days. I love his guts and even though I didn’t ask for this problem, I am sticking it out, helping him, as best as I know how, through this very enigmatic addiction.

trust means you can crush someone

Trust gives you the ability to crush someone. That’s why this problem hurts so very badly. That’s why it has crushed me and I have had to start over. I trusted my husband like I have never trusted anyone before. I didn’t just trust him, I carried a torch for him. I would never, ever do anything to betray that trust. But he has and it hurts like hell.

Elder Holland gets it. Oh boy does he get it:

The result (of trust) is that I know much more clearly now how to help her, and, if I let myself, I know exactly what will hurt her. In the honesty of our love—love that can’t truly be Christlike without such total devotion—surely God will hold me accountable for any pain I cause her by intentionally exploiting or hurting her when she has been so trusting of me, having long since thrown away any self-protection in order that we could be, as the scripture says, “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). To impair or impede her in any way for my gain or vanity or emotional mastery over her should disqualify me on the spot to be her husband.

Indeed, it should consign my miserable soul to eternal incarceration in that large and spacious building Lehi says is the prison of those who live by “vain imaginations” and the “pride of the world” (1 Nephi 11:36, 12:18). No wonder that building is at the opposite end of the field from the tree of life representing the love of God! In all that Christ was, He was not ever envious or inflated, never consumed with His own needs. He did not once, not ever, seek His own advantage at the expense of someone else. He delighted in the happiness of others, the happiness He could bring them. He was forever kind.” (How do I Love Thee, BYU Speeches, Feb 21 2000)

i want to be special

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I want to feel special. I want to feel like M considers me a priority by doing something out of the ordinary. I have told him this many times over the last four months. Please, please do just something, anything, to show me that you took time out of your busy schedule to think of me. To date, he’s done nothing. Not one damn thing. I’ve even given him ideas: Flowers would be nice–and not the ugly yellow weedy flowers from Costco that he conveniently picked up as he was there anyway getting milk and eggs. Reservations at a nice restaurant or a planned outing to a special restaurant in would be nice.

Last Friday he asked if I would go out to dinner with him that night. I said, “Yes, if you will plan it.” I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. When he got home he said “I was thinking of taking you to a bbq joint or to a Thai restaurant.” Gee, way to plan. What about an invitation to lunch? Why do I always have to be the one to call him and say, “Let’s go to to lunch!” I know his time at work is beyond precious and beyond stressful and for him to do this would be an acknowledgement that I am more important that getting work done. What about tickets to a play or to a movie? An invitation to go hike in the mountains? A declaration that he would cook dinner? A card with a nice sentiment? A piece of jewelry? My favorite cake from a bakery? A surprise by coming home half a day early?

I try to just be grateful for things he does do–the laundry, the dishes, the math tutoring. You know, the boring mundane tasks that still have to get done. But when I doubt every single thing about the marriage I thought I had, I need just a tiny bit of assurance that I am special, that I am worth a few minutes of sacrifice out of his busy day to say, “Thanks for sticking with me despite me being a liar/manipulator/objectifier/lustful man who has seen thousands of naked women, yet all the while telling you that you are beautiful, and who had plans to take this horrible secret to his grave.”  It would be nice, but I’m tired of holding my breath to feel special. I need to make myself feel special because no one else–not my husband, nor my teenage children–will ever do that for me.

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.

getting what you deserve, part 2

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I shared a previous post, getting what you deserve part 1, with my husband  the day I wrote it and it did not go well. He said I was lashing out at him and being mean just to be mean. He was angry that I thought he should have to go live with a trashy woman. Funny, I don’t remember saying anything about trashy, all I did was describe some of his addictive attributes. Anyway, I felt stabbed through the heart. I wasn’t lashing out–I was opening up about my own problems and how I’m trying to give them away to God. I cried like I haven’t cried in front of him ever. I usually save those wracking sobs that bring on dry heaves when he’s at work, but not that night. I screamed “Damn you” and cried until I thought I would throw up so I had to run to the bathroom. He felt horrible, tried to apologize, but I couldn’t even look at him. I went and slept on the couch that night in the office. That velvet couch that I love is so soft but boy is it hot to sleep on!

It was a horrible night’s rest. In the middle of the night, wide awake, I bought a book on the Nook called The God who Weeps. So far it is pretty fantastic. Another wife of a porn addict recommended it on her blog.  I was drawn to the title because somehow that comforts me to know to that God weeps with me right now. Anyway, the next day I woke up to a note he had written over night. He talked about how wrong he was and he quoted lots from the book He Restoreth my Soul from the section about the trauma inflicted on wives.  He acknowledged that he was the cause of my pain and that he stomped on my feelings when I tried to share them. I just couldn’t say “I forgive you”. Now I have one more thing I need to forgive him for and just can’t.

I feel cold and numb towards him. This is kind of what I wanted to feel from the beginning–detached so that I could kick him out. And finally I feel those feelings only it’s too late to kick him out. He is on the road to recovery. He is trying so hard every day. He reads and studies his scriptures, has gone to the temple, once with me and once alone, prays daily–really truly heart-felt prayers, and attends his recovery meetings. So today I am praying for all the usual–asking God to take away this pain, after all, Christ already suffered for it so why am I still carrying it? But how do you give away something invisible? And in addition to all that now I am just praying to even like my husband. I’m afraid at how cold I feel towards him sometimes.

I keep doing this. I keep bringing up memories and asking him if he was using at the time–ordaining our son to be a priest (no),  business trips (mostly yes), etc. Why I need to know I don’t know. It only hurts to ask. Everything hurts these days. Every damn thing.