Love

“You have to learn to love yourself before you can love someone else.”

My best friend in high school told me this once and it has echoed in my mind ever since. At the time, it made me uncomfortable (probably because it rang so true, but I did not want to admit it), and I dismissed it because I felt that she had an agenda since she had come out to me by telling me she had feelings for me and was resentful when she found that I could not return them in the way she wanted.

These days I am better able to accept the truth of that statement, though I would add a slight modification – You must learn to love yourself before you can allow someone else to love you.

What I mean by that is I’ve come to realize that I was never able to feel my husband’s love, not just because of his actions as a sex addict, but because I did not believe I was worthy of love and could not believe that he loved me. It helped to create a self-perpetuating cycle where his shame and disgust with himself were reinforced by my belief that he did not truly love me that was reinforced by his sex addict actions.

We’re learning to break that cycle, but it is taking some time.

Last week I was in Europe on a work trip and the first night I was gone he broke his sobriety by looking at soft core foreign films on You Tube. He did all the right things after that. He told me about it, called his sponsor, went to SAA meetings, and checked in with me every day.

It still really hurt and I dropped into depression. It felt as if it was another confirmation of those old familiar feelings of unloveableness.

Last week was the last week before he reached 90 days of sobriety on June 1. I was depending on that week as a test of everything – of myself, of him, of our individual sobrieties – and I felt that if we were able to make it to that 90 day period of sobriety with my trip to Europe (he used to always act out when I was out of town so it was especially meaningful), then we would have passed the test and I could allow myself to trust him and myself and put on my wedding rings again.

All those expectations ended in disappointment and I have not been able to recover since. It wasn’t just that he broke his sobriety, but also that I let it affect me the way that I have, demonstrating to me that I have not recovered quite as much as I had thought.

I am fighting it as hard as I can. I am trying, which seems to me like evidence of my own improvement, though I am not using my tools as well as I should. I am isolating myself and withdrawing, trying to lick my wounds and not collapse into despair rather than reaching out to others. I keep telling myself “I love you. I cherish you. I value you.” and try to really feel those feelings to counteract the old illusory feelings of worthlessness that my mother instilled in me and which are so comfortable to believe because they allow me the fantasy that I have some kind of control.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I also feel really angry. I am furious with my husband. I am furious with my mother. I am furious with the rest of my family that knew what was happening and did nothing to stop it while I was growing up. I am furious with the people I thought were friends who participated in my husband’s acting out and those who knew but did nothing and even those who did not know until it stopped but were not what I saw as “supportive” after things came out. I am furious with everyone who stands by while children and spouses are used and abused and who do nothing about it.

Anger is comforting. It is, after all, a more powerful feeling than despair, though no less misleading.

It feels good to write all that down. I can say, “I am angry. I am depressed. I am fighting it.” and know that all of that is valid. It is perfectly reasonable for me to feel this way, but it is not acceptable to me to let it rule or dominate my life or my actions.

 

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Smash!

I had been feeling the anger build, the frustration mount, and the panic pile on. My husband, let’s call him Jay for efficiency, had found a sponsor the night before and been ebullient since. I couldn’t understand this dramatic change in his attitude from depressed and mopey to all of a sudden happier than a cat in a pigeon pen. It scared me. I tried to explain to him how it scared me, but he didn’t understand and became frustrated. And that was the last straw. I became angrier and angrier. By the time I got home I was furious and raging. He was still at work and so I just screamed at the top of my lungs and with all my heart, “I DON’T WANT THIS!!!! I DON’T WANT THIS LIFE!! I DON’T WANT ANY OF THIS!!!”

Years ago, when Jay was still in college, he took a photography course. For one of his final projects he took these dramatic and beautiful black and white photos of friends and family. They were large portraits, all about 11 x 17, and we had them framed and had lived with them around our dining room ever since. One of them was a portrait of the woman I wrote about in my last post: Another Bomb Goes Off… . I had taken the photo down after he told me about his relationship with her. I couldn’t stand to look at the smarmy self-satisfied look on her fat face anymore. I took her husband’s photo down too, because though I like the guy, he’s a reminder now too of that terrible time when I was in need and my boyfriend of the time, now husband, turned his back on me and betrayed me.

In my fury on this day, I broke. I grabbed a hammer and hammered in the face of this woman in the photo. I smashed the glass, I smashed the photo, and wished it was really her face or his face, and then when the glass was all over the floor, I grabbed the photo and ripped it to shreds. It was so satisfying! I wish there were more things for me to smash to smithereens!

I didn’t want to lose my temper like that, but sometimes it builds up and it simply feels so incredibly unfair and unbearable. The pain, the fear, the anger….it’s just too much to stand. I want them (Jay and all of his APs) to hurt like I hurt, and I know that, even though they hurt from all of this or have at some point, they don’t hurt like I do. None of them know what this is like. None of them have felt pain this deep. I know this, because I have experienced more pain than most people deserve or have ever thought possible in this life from a very early age, and this is the absolute most excruciatingly awful pain I have ever felt. Both the person I trusted and loved most in the world and people, friends even, that I believed in and trusted all stabbed me in the back, over and over and over and over again.

Jay protests sometimes, “What about my pain?” It makes me want to scream at him. I really don’t care about his pain at the moment. The pain that he has caused me, the man I loved (love? I don’t know anymore), is so punishing that I want to die just so I don’t have to feel it anymore. There is no way for me to escape the agonizing hurt he and his f*ckbuddies have caused and that I in no way deserved or brought down on or chose for myself. I have to live through it. Every day. Every day I have to suffer this searing emotional pain wondering if it will ever get better.

What about your pain, Jay? F*ck your pain. Go sit on a stick and spin or take a flying leap off a cliff or a long walk off a short pier cause I really don’t want or need to hear it.

 

Sorry for the angry post today y’all. I just had to get it out.