Forward Progress

Tomorrow is our second marriage counseling appointment from this latest attempt and I am nervous. After I had really reached the end of my tether and felt like I couldn’t continue to fight for our marriage anymore, J decided that he would do whatever was needed to fix us, the marriage, him, me, whatever needed fixing. He made arrangements to transfer his counseling to my therapist (C) and also made an appointment for marriage counseling. He said that he had realized that his decision to go to counseling in a different town had caused me to be more mistrustful and felt that both of us seeing the same counselor  was as a way to show that he is really committed to working things out this time – that he really is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

He has wanted so badly to separate everything out, to believe that issues are not connected and that we can fix one part and just forget the rest. After all of this time, I might even be able to do that, but not if his behavior is still erratic – I am tired of the one step forward and two steps back. I want this situation fixed so that we can move forward and enjoy a great life together, or I want it over so that I can mourn and move on. I am tired of being in this holding pattern, doing and saying the same things and moving nowhere OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

Our first appointment together went well, and I was able to explain that his inability to tell me what had happened or when for the first weeks of the affair was a HUGE problem for me. I really try not to see things in black and white, but for me, in this particular case, the only explanations seemed to be that either he “couldn’t remember” because he was still withholding important and possibly devastating information OR he was suffering from some sort of amnesia and his refusal to see selective amnesia induced by stress as a problem that needed to be addressed is UNACCEPTABLE to me. As C attempted to wander through the morass of those weeks, she realized how confused he really seemed and asked him to construct a calendar of events that included the time from just before the affair through its aftermath, indicating that his lack of clarity over the time line of the affair was indeed an issue that needed to be addressed. He was scheduled for an individual appointment the next week, and she asked him to bring it with him.

As of Sunday evening, with his appointment a few days away, he had not even pulled out a calendar, let alone started compiling his work, travel, and home calendars, or looking at the “missing 2 weeks”. I was so angry by that night that when he snuggled up to me, I wanted to fling him on the floor. Looking at photos of us sprinkled around the room while I was unable to fall asleep, instead of thinking about the happy memories, I just wanted to smash them over his head. These are the feelings that caused my visit to my doctor and resulted in his prescription of martial arts as a solution to my emotional turmoil.

Somehow my unhappiness must have permeated J’s layer of denial because when I got up the next morning, he had already been up for awhile, working on his “assignment”, and he continued to work on it in his spare time until his appointment. He also talked openly about what had been happening during October and November of ’09. Some of the information is painful, but at least the pieces seem to be coming together and things are finally beginning to make sense. We have discovered that he really suffers from time distortion. I have always known that he seriously underestimates the amount of time activities will take and always overschedules himself, but I had not realized that time in the past really seems to exist for him on a sliding scale. He has a vivid memory for individual events, and sometimes their relationship to one another, but no real sense of the amount of time in between events. It explains so much about arguments that we have had throughout our marriage. One of my most serious problems was that the few verifiable facts and dates that I had didn’t match up with his affair story. He insisted that he had told me everything (after December of last year) but I could not reconcile the inconsistencies. Placing the events in blocks on a calendar and working through the time line more or less solved the problem. He really had told me everything major – he just really thought that more time had passed between events. When he had believed that a week passed between interactions, he was able to see that it may have been less than 24 hours. He was also able to see cause and effect much more clearly. What had been an intractably missing 2 weeks turned out to be a day, with a very clear sequence of events – one leading to another into disaster.

Another part of this process of clarification has been a clearer understanding of the actions of the OW. She has been continually reasserting herself in our lives for the last 19 months and he really has had no contact with her. It has just made no sense. As recent details have come out and events have been discussed with more openness, I have realized that she has not faded away because she really believes that our marriage will not survive and he will end up with her. Unfortunately, this romantic delusion was fueled by him – at times he purposely encouraged the idea to keep her from freaking out and contacting me, at times he encouraged it to make her feel better because he felt so guilty for hurting her – for having sex with someone without any intention of developing a relationship, and at times he encouraged her because he believed he loved her – in the past, in the present – even now he feels so much confusion he can’t sort out what he really felt or meant. He swears, and she has also said, that he always insisted that he loved me and that he was never leaving me – that he was committed to our marriage. A part of their emotional affair involved her offering marriage counseling and support – recommending books and sending him emails with Bible passages about marriage and forgiveness – which I’ve seen.  At the same time, he expressed constantly his fear that I would leave him immediately if I ever found out that he had sex with someone else, and it seems probable that she believed that, since her counseling attempts were interspersed with offers of phone sex and hysterical phone calls about his betrayal of her.

After the recent video problem, in discussing why on earth she would be holding on for this long with no reinforcement or contact with him, and as he put his time line together, more and more details poured out. When he saw her the second time “to break up in person”, as I found out at the end of last year, he wasn’t really committed to ending it – his words may have said goodbye, but the presents, photos, and the NOTE HE LEFT ON HER CAR SAYING HE WOULD REMEMBER HER ALWAYS, told her something else. He told her that he loved her, even though he still loved me and wasn’t leaving me. He told her that if she ever needed him, she could call and use a special code word and he would come.  Her favorite movie is The Last of the Mohicans and she told him repeatedly that Hawkeye’s lines “You be strong….no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.” applies to their relationship (yes, this actually made me want to throw up). He promised that if something happened to him, he would make sure that his brother let her know (I would have paid to overhear the conversation in which J asked his brother to call his mistress if something happened to him – the brother who has known and loved me since I was 19 and who had been so devastated when his own wife cheated on him that he had moved his entire family half way across the continent). She also told him that she had had her fortune told and that she was assured that 4 years from now will be a very significant time for her – basically that she will have her heart’s desire by then…. And although he had maintained no contact through repeated attempts on her part, he undid all of his work by asking her not to tell me about the 2nd visit after I emailed her and asked her to call me 5 months after the end of the affair. I really do not think she is a crazy woman; I think she just has an unfortunate romantic streak that has nothing to do with reality, and all of his confusion, guilt and waffling just fed the flame.

He has talked about the development of his own anger at the situation – that his belief that he had damaged her had made everything so much harder, that he had seen us both equally as victims of his actions. From the time the first details began to come out, this has never made sense to me – she contacted him, she told him that she had always loved him, she sent an email with a passionate description of their first kiss and her desire that he had been her first everything. She knew he was married – she found him on Facebook where his status said married to …with pictures of our life  together (no, Facebook isn’t evil – it is just a tool that is sometimes used for evil). He insists that he realizes now that she manipulated him, played on his feelings with tales of woe, and that she wasn’t really a victim at all. He doesn’t seem to have really sorted this out, however, because he keeps saying how he guilty he felt because “I manipulated that woman into having sex with me”, “I forced the situation”, “It was my fault,” and similar sentiments – not “I thought I manipulated…” or “I believed then that it was all my fault”. I guess that is something to discuss at our counseling appointment tomorrow.

After the first joint session, I really wasn’t feeling that much more hopeful and I couldn’t figure out why, since he seemed to be open to counseling and cooperative about whatever he was asked to do. At some point, my subconscious sorted out what was bothering me. Even though he has said several times that working on a calendar of events has helped to provide clarity and put his feelings into some context, he really only did it because it was important to me. It still did not bother him that he didn’t really know what happened when, who contacted whom, why he felt what he felt, or even exactly what he felt. He was only trying to find answers for me, and as soon as emotions smoothed out between us, sorting out emotions and issues moved to the back burner, or even off the stove all together. He was “working on himself” for ME, because I can’t move on until I know what happened. He was not going to therapy because having a lack of clarity about one of the worst decisions of his life caused so much damage to himself and to me. He was not analyzing events to find clues to healing himself – only for me. He says that he understands the amount of damage caused by his refusal to stop and analyze his feelings and his reactions to those feelings, the damage done by the lying, and the avoidance, and the pulling tight and showering with love and then the shoving away and anger. His answer for this is that he was broken, that he was breaking, which led to the affair, which broke him. I think in his head, no matter how much work we do, it really is that simple for him. He broke, messed up, realized what he wanted, freaked out because he was afraid he would lose me, didn’t, and so now everything is fine – he is fine. He then spent a year alternating between understanding, impatient and mad as he waited for me to catch up and realize that everything is fine.

Somehow, something has changed in the last two weeks, and I feel much more hopeful. I’m not sure, but I think that talking to C about me at his individual appointment helped him see that everything is not fine – and NOT because I cannot get over the affair. Everything is not fine because HE is not fine. He really seems to understand that his internal life is still chaotic, his behavior is still occasionally erratic, and his lack of clarity about important issues is not OK. Since that appointment, he has been loving and supportive and much more consistent. He has been addressing his work issues in a problem solving manner, has answer questions without flinching, and has brought up difficult topics and discussed them calmly. Is it actually possible that in trying to save our marriage and help me, he may actually help himself? Only time will tell.


4 comments on “Forward Progress

  1. bigreddress says:

    That sounds really positive. I’m a big believer in ‘fake it ’til you make it’ and even if he is only going through the motions because you have asked it of him, I still believe that it is a highly valuable exercise.

  2. Wow. Many similarities between My X and your M.
    I’m hopeful that a 3rd, neutral party can really help you sort things out and work through this to make your marriage stronger.
    The first step is a committment to make it work…and it appears that J has now taken that step.
    Peace and Success to you.

    • Devon says:

      Honestly, even though you are hard on yourself for not being constantly upbeat, I so admire how firmly you have maintained your core values throughout your situation. My biggest fear for the last year has been that if I agreed to accept the beauty of the present moment without reconciling the confusion and inconsistencies of the immediate past, then we would come unstuck in the future. I truly have never wanted him to hurt or to pay for making a horrible mistake, I don’t need vengeance, but I NEEDED clarity – not to be right, but to make sure we really were addressing issues that needed work.

      This whole year has been like slowly peeling an onion, only it turned out that it was an imaginary onion. If each layer was a problem area in our marriage, we would peel it off, look closely at it, and it just disappeared. I was in a constant state of confusion. All of the “problems” turned out to be non-existent or minor irritations that he had magnified to excuse his own behavior.

      He had chaos in so many areas of his life, and he now believes that instead of addressing HIS issues, he just shifted the blame for his feelings onto me….it sounds like your wife did the same thing. Why is it so hard for people to take responsibility for their own feelings?

      • Thank you for the support. I understand so much of what you say. Oh my gosh….this sounds so similar to my story. X “imagined” so many of the things. Remembered things inaccurately ….(based on other people too, not just me)…and based a lot of her decisions on this. example: she would be at the table. I would be doing dishes. She’d complain that no-one helps her around the house. (because she was angry at the daughter for not picking up things). I’d point out to her that I was at that moment doing things around the house and that when she said that stuff to herself, even when it was not true, she believed it and made it true.
        In therapy she then brought up the idea that she felt liks she always was pulling the cart on her own and she wanted a team member with her. But, by this point, she was involved with J and wanted to believe that I was the evil partner.
        So…it’s these distortions of the past which are maddening to me….and that kills me to know that my marriage is over and family destroyed because of false assumptions. Arrrrrggghhhh.

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