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 The marriage I thought I had for 19 years has been replaced by a broken one.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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.