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Seeing Clearly, My New Vows

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maise posted 11/4/2019 10:28 AM

I understand what your original post was intending and I believe you’re doing great with your personal work. I also understand when you say your wife had the strength that you didn’t to remove herself from a toxic marriage which in turn forced you to face yourself.

Great job doing your work and focusing on self-healing and change. That’s the only way to grow and become a better version of yourself that’s safe for anyone around you.

HellFire posted 11/4/2019 10:32 AM

There is a difference between posting to promote growth and posting to be insulting

As my 15 year old daughter would say....true that.

WalkinOnEggshelz posted 11/4/2019 13:51 PM

This is a reminder to post respectfully. It is possible to be constructive without being disrespectful.

sisoon posted 11/4/2019 13:59 PM

I can understand how your vows could trigger some critical responses. I'll add some quick comments in the hope of quieting the triggers. I sure hope I don't muddy the waters further....

•Be true to yourself; really understand what you want, and advocate for yourself.
If you mean this in shakespeare's sense, yeah, because Shakespeare is talking about being true to self making it impossible to betray another.

If you're talking about not stifling yourself, also good stuff, as long as you realize you won't always get what you want - but if you ask sometime you may just find you get what you need.

•Never do something that doesn’t feel right (period)
Yeah, but ... some stuff feels right but violates rule 1 above. Cheating can feel right, for example, if you let your testsoterone drive your actions.

•Love yourself; appreciate yourself; don’t believe the negative thoughts, because they are false. You are an amazing person. Remember the inner child you learned to love. 
Well, yes, but this, too, needs qualification ... the inner child needs a lot of guidance from the inner adult and inner parent.

And sometimes, the criticisms of oneself are valid.

•Live with integrity; this means valuing your needs equally to those you love.
This is an important principle if you start off as co-dependent.

If you start off too far over on the narc side, this principle will eff up relationships.

•Stop hiding stuff; just stop. Openly be you, no matter what: (for me, atheist, romantic, creative, sensitive, optimist, deep thinker)
If this is another way of saying 'be authentic,' great. If it means it's OK to push yourself and your ideas onto other people, not so great.

•Choose experience over accomplishment, say it again until you believe it, choose experience over accomplishment.
Not sure what this means.

•Be authentic with people, with self, even if authenticity is not the ideal person.
Absolutely yes.

•Be careful with all people’s feelings, no matter what
Yes - consider others' feelings without stifling your own.

•Face the deep-down dark truth with courage, always; never rugsweep, never rewrite the narrative of past; use this to change the future
Yes.

•NEVER STOP DOING THE HARD WORK
It gets easier, the more authentic you get.

Bottom line, I think you've got some great principles to live by.

[This message edited by sisoon at 2:01 PM, November 4th (Monday)]

kairos posted 11/4/2019 20:41 PM

Sisoon, some responses below. Thank you for asking. I jotted my thoughts quickly. This helped me think about the impetus behind my vows. As I mentioned, they are refining over time/application.

I have read all the responses in this thread. I respect everyone’s thoughts and experiences. It was not my intent to offend. I am glad you told me. I plan to think on this for as long as it takes to understand the impact of my words, as I do think about the impact of my actions daily.

These vows are for me, no one else, but they may be of use. I remember in the months following Dday, my wife said a friend gave some really good advice. Her friend said, now more than ever, you need to be selfish. I was confused. I considered myself to be one of the most selfish people I knew. (I am still working on that.) But what she really meant was that I needed to go back to the root of my issues and once and for all tackle those things, selfishly. There was no way I could help my wife in the state I was in. I was dangerous, to her and to me. I needed to be selfish, to look within, from an emotional wholeness perspective. Not the corrupting bad selfishness. I was not whole. I had remained incomplete since childhood, since that day that I committed to one day end my life, a commitment I made when I was 9 years old. I needed my ‘ego’ to go to the little boy and hold him and tell him it’s time to love yourself. My vows have helped….

• Be true to yourself; really understand what you want, and advocate for yourself.

This is about aligning myself with who I am, who I need to be, so I can find harmony in the world. We married young. I was an unformed person, who needed to iron out important post-adolescent and young adult issues, and to do so I needed to experience life fully and without judgment. Getting married locked me into a belief system that I resented for many years. I ignored it, and it festered. At a certain point, I didn’t know who I was. It seemed I never knew. The unfinished task of ‘finding myself’ was so long dead, I was a vacuous vessel living only to earn money and to ‘achieve’ instead of ‘experiencing’ (one of my other goals). I lived this way in relationship (essentially as a fake vessel) with my wife with her for years. I couldn’t open up to her about who I wanted to be, how I wanted to live, because by then we had kids, and I was stuck in the mode of bread winner. I actually didn’t even know that I was not being true to myself. If I had been true to myself, I would have advocated for what I needed in life: less work, more family, and a full and transparent relationship with her. In short, ignoring my true self meant that I couldn’t be in full relationship with my wife, and it’s highly likely this happened because: a) we married too young, or b) we jumped into having kids and American dream too fast. By living true to myself, I wouldn’t need to look outside my marriage or seek happiness in substance abuse or even Type A experiences. I would find happiness within myself, and bring that full self to those around me (my kids, my wife, friends….). Once I am true to myself, I need to advocate this, make it known, so that we (the couple) can address these circumstances together.

• Never do something that doesn’t feel right (period).

I have spent most of my life not living in harmony with self, not doing what was healthy for me, and not allowing emotion to guide me. I have also lived my life with this nagging feeling that something was off. That doesn’t feel right, in my gut. My emotions ranged from anger/rage to being completely shut off, and nothing between. Once I started feeling and exploring real emotion (probably for the first time since childhood, possibly ever, due to the trauma experienced), I realized these emotions were complex and hard to understand, and that was ok. What remains is an intuition of right vs wrong, healthy vs unhealthy, for me. If something doesn’t feel right, I need to get away from that situation. I wouldn’t have been in situation where infidelity was possible if I had simply trusted my intuition from the beginning. I’m struggling with this now, actually. It’s really hard to think you want something but know in your gut that it’s not right for you, if that makes sense. And for what it’s worth, cheating never felt right, but it was perfectly self-destructive, which was what I intended to do to myself.

• Love yourself; appreciate yourself; don’t believe the negative thoughts, because they are false. You are an amazing person. Remember the inner child you learned to love. 

This is an area where I have struggled the most. And it was demonstrated through my self-destructive tendencies. Because I wasn’t true to myself, because I didn’t follow my intuition to be the person I needed to be (moral, transparent, vulnerable, etc.), I could not love myself. Also, due to childhood trauma, I believed (subconsciously/unconsciously) the only way to ‘do right’ was to through a process of pain (aka punishment). So I hated myself, since I was 9 years old. Yes, this inner child absolutely needs guidance, but he needs love first.

• Live with integrity; this means valuing your needs equally to those you love.

Integrity is a moral high road that I want to strive for. I find myself thinking about this concept a lot. If a person drops a $20 bill on the sidewalk, do you chase them down? If someone gives me credit for someone else’s work, do I correct them? If my growing boys try to short-cut their homework and bypass small steps in life or misperceive the value of hard work, how do I teach them that ever little decision adds up into either a big problem or an amazing reward? It does add up. I aspire toward integrity now. And…it feels good sometimes. It’s a chance to be better daily. Why value my needs equally to others? I think when we are in relationship to others, if we value those relationships, we have to navigate balance. No one should have to sacrifice their own self to be with the other or support a lifestyle.

• Stop hiding stuff; just stop. Openly be you, no matter what: atheist, romantic, creative, sensitive, optimist, deep thinker.

For years I was not honest about my beliefs in a highly religious family. Both my in-laws and my side of the family are fundamental Christians. When we married, I had been struggling with this but never reconciled it. But I knew deep down that I did not believe. I never confronted it directly with my wife. I also never owned other aspects of who I am (for the aforementioned reasons: be true to yourself…). There were so many ideas I ignored that were just gutting me. Even my own sexuality, something that I ignored because of religious repression, now became madly apparent. I wanted a healthy sexual life but failed to connect with my wife, and therefore failed to establish the trust that two people need to have it. I failed her by failing myself. I betrayed self, then I betrayed her. This is a very personal goal because it has become habitual for me to not be vocal about my ideas, desires, and beliefs when they might be perceived as the minority. I was trained in childhood that dissent against the religion was bad (whether implicit or explicit). I’m an atheist. I believe it takes more faith to believe that there may be nothing for us in the end, than it does to believe in a god. Those types of statements were so hard, still are. And, I respect people who disagree. There is a beauty in religion.

• Choose experience over accomplishment, say it again until you believe it, choose experience over accomplishment.

I became so focused on accomplishing goals for myself and for my family (buying/fixing houses, 401k, making more money, getting ahead, over and over and over). God it makes me sick now. I am NOT that person. If I had chosen ‘experience’ with my wife, well…. Here I am. And that’s ok. It’s a lesson. This goal is more about guidance. Of course I have to earn money and get ahead, but it’s going to be deprioritized going forward. Money can’t buy a lifetime of relationships and experience.

• Be authentic with people, with self, even if authenticity is not the ideal person.

I’m working on this. But you gotta know yourself first, truly deep down, before you can be authentic. I ask myself now: who am I? Not philosophically. But who am I in simple, elegant terms? It’s ok to be me. That’s hard to say sometimes. It’s ok to be me. In doing so, I can finally be authentic with others. Even as I write this, it is so liberating. Because 5 years ago, the idea of authenticity felt impossible. I was barricaded by falsehood.

• Be careful with all people’s feelings, no matter what

This is about empathy. I believe I failed in this post. I failed to see that many betrayed spouses who are in so much pain would see my need to focus on self as a slap in the face to the one I betrayed. I see how it looks like that. I want to reconcile those two things, but I NEED to become a better person, first for myself, then for my kids, and hopefully someday to prove to my wife (nearly ex) that SHE was the authentic one. She was the hero. She was the strength. In that regard, I want to be more like her.

• Face the deep-down dark truth with courage, always; never rugsweep, never rewrite the narrative of past; use this to change the future

Never, ever re-write the narrative. I’ve seen it too many times with others and in my own life. I committed an egregious act of betrayal that brought my dear wife to her knees. It gutted her. It was selfish, hurtful, punishing, brutal, and impossible to undo. It was an act of emotional violence. I never want to mince words on that fact. Initially, when I realized the full impact of what I had done, I wanted to erase myself. But that was weak and did not reconcile what was necessary. When I view this truth, I look in the mirror, and I see my true self: who I was, but also who I was before I betrayed, and then the possibility of who I could become if I take the next step…..

• NEVER STOP DOING THE HARD WORK

Yes. Forever.

marriageredux959 posted 11/4/2019 22:31 PM

To thine own self be true...

... just don't drag another human being through the shit in the process, especially at their own expense for no more debt than being in a relationship with you.

Is this a Byzantine way of saying that you have discovered that you were/are not yet ready to be responsible for a covenant with another person? Respectable enough...

... but don't frame yourself as somehow virtuous for this awesome bit of self-discovery at someone else's expense.

At some level the problem *might* be that you are not in a position to be beholden to another person, but you need, 'staff'? You need the support structure of a relationship, but you cannot handle the responsibility/are not interested in the maintenance side of that relationship. (And this is abjectly ignoring any sort of mutual enjoyment or enrichment, it is translating relationships into solely transactional relationships.)

This is coming out far harsher than I mean it to be. My sincere apologies.

I do sometimes contemplate how many 'cheaters' are borne (developed) in parent-child relationships where the children are not required to/not allowed to fully disengage from the parents. They are not encouraged to stand on their own two feet, to believe in their own wings, to trust their wings and their abilities and their developed skills rather than the branch on which they light.

Ergo *all* relationships are "branch swinging."

I am toying with the idea that at least a sizable percentage of relationships visited by infidelity have some strong parent-child component: the wayward partner needs infrastructure, needs a 'parent in locum,' needs a replacement parent to provide structure and stability and a sense of place, but that wayward partner is not yet finished with adolescent self-discovery and experimentation.

Ergo an unsuspecting (semi-suspecting, complicit, willing to go along, any port in a storm, over-compensating, etc.) partner will at some conscious or unconscious level acquiesce to being 'the parent' to the wayward's perpetual (or at least much delayed) adolescence.

???

Your post reads like a late adolescent manifesto to me... and I mean no offense.

You have without intent written right into a thought process I've entertained for some time.

I could be/am probably far off base here. Willing to hear it.

Being 'true' to yourself, taking 'vows' with yourself, also holds a good amount of autonomy, which includes (by default) a good amount of competence and independence... in an emancipated, adult context.

YMMV.

Addendum: Re-reading your post, it sounds like the best thing your wife ever did for you was kick you out of the nest... which is something your parents should have done, or perhaps tried to do, but that didn't get the needed amount of traction.

[This message edited by marriageredux959 at 11:26 PM, November 4th (Monday)]

kairos posted 11/5/2019 13:00 PM

Marriageredux959, I’m going to try to summarize your points so I can respond in a succinct way. My apologies if any meaning is lost. I think there is good stuff here. I also think some of this is hard to compress into paragraphs. I’ve only done 60 or so therapy sessions

Complex justification of inability to be in a covenant relationship? I think it’s a justification to be very clear about one’s self-understanding and one’s emotional and psychological wellbeing before and during a relationship. By not doing so is self-abandonment and self-betrayal, with no solid ground to walk on. I didn’t know this as a teenager, when I was dating my wife, or in college.

Needing relationship but not able to handle the responsibility/maintenance?

If by the maintenance side you mean not ignoring self, then yes. My dishonesty with myself made intimacy with her disingenuous. If anything, we ‘maintained’ our relationship too well. We hummed like machinery. We actually worked really well together. Deep down inside though, something was broken in me. But I was living a life I didn’t want: working too hard, not open about personal beliefs (suppressed), and not having the daily connection I wanted with her, probably due to the aforementioned reasons.

Cheaters borne from parent-child relationships where children weren’t disengaged from their parents?

Considering my mother was in and out of my life for the first 9 years of my life (the most informative years) and then considering my father was violent and did things that to this day are incomprehensible – none of which I could remember until I went to therapy spurred by my cheating – I doubt this. I do think there was an extreme religious component that suppressed my desire to be who I needed to be. I neglected the real me out of religious pressure. It was oppressive and abusive. Maybe you have some insights on that…. I’m still figuring it out. But first I have to understand what exactly happened. A lot of memories are coming back. There’s a good possibility that I chose my wife as a youth as a way to escape the insanity of my family, but then there was still the insanity of the church.

All relationships ‘branch swinging’.

I don’t know. While I did cheat, I’ve only ever had one real relationship since I was 13 years old, the relationship I had with my girlfriend/wife (middle school, high school, college, etc.). I never sought relationships when cheating. I sought self-destruction.

Relationships with parent-child component?

I think most relationships fall into this, regardless of infidelity. What we are taught is that two halves make a whole, but this is misleading and dangerous. When one takes agency, become fully independent/autonomous, one becomes not a half but rather a whole: 100%. Two people self-engaged as their full, enlightened selves is very different than two halves make a whole. It’s like the old adage, ‘you complete me.’ My wife and I completed each other, and complicity imprisoned each other in this construct. For my own part, I needed to become my 100%. I’m still not there. I am working on it.

Adolescent manifesto?

I spent the past year just trying to understand the damage done to my inner child, than 9 year old boy who sat on the bed crying, wondering what he had done to deserve the pain of this life. I consider this ‘adolescent manifesto’ comment a compliment, an upgrade from where I really feel that I am: faced with the pain of a child.

Taking personal vows, true to self?

No matter what age or experience, a person can be led to self-betrayal. And then we act out. Making a promise to myself is about aligning my values with my desired life. I need to re-orient toward something I can believe in, for me and no one else. My vows help with that.

And your last point: the best thing my wife ever did was kick me out of the nest?

The good points always come last, and this one hits the nail on the head. My wife is strong. As I wrote above, “She was the hero. She was the strength. In that regard, I want to be more like her.” Was this the best thing she ever did? I’d like to think the best thing she and I ever did was love each other. I killed that love, yes. But it was real and it was good. Her letting me go at that time was the best thing she could do at that time.

[This message edited by Pdxguy at 1:35 PM, November 5th (Tuesday)]

BigMammaJamma posted 11/5/2019 14:10 PM

I understood the intent of your original post and I certainly did not have the same initial response as some of the other BS's. Your BS has decided to move on and you are continuing to work on yourself and becoming a better, authentic person. I don't exactly understand the hate -- should PDXguy no longer work on himself even though his BS has moved on?

marriageredux959 posted 11/5/2019 15:51 PM

Sorry, got a scant 30 seconds to respond here, must be out the door.

PDXGuy, NO HATE from me and congrats and best wishes in your self exploration and improvement. God knows I need it as well.

Sorry about the disrupted, colorful childhood. You and I share that. It's a bit of navel gazing on my part but I do realize that I am always, unconsciously or consciously, tryingvto replace and rebuild the emotional, psychological and physical infrastructure that crashed so spectacularly around me.

I am absolutely certain that is why I reacted so strongly to Husband's relatively mild infidelity. How dare he not be rock solid, predictable, reliable?

Could you have somehow plugged your wife into parental mode and unconsciously used her for reliability and stability while you worked out other things?

Sorry you probably already answered this in your response but I am super behind here.

Just did not want to leave an impression of whatever bad feelings!

kairos posted 11/5/2019 17:12 PM

A general aside to this commentary, but I wanted to add: I’ve heard the “navel gazing” comment a few times on this and other threads. I’d just like to say that for some of us, careful instrospection is critical. What may have been an obvious or easy phase of personal maturation for you is something that others might struggle with. Many things (e.g., allowing a simple emotion to linger, and then to understand it, manage it, etc.) come so easily to some, not so for others. Thus, I have to navel gaze. If this comes off as naďve or immature, self-inflating and fatuous, so be it. I have no choice but to look closely at emotional things that some take for granted. I would also argue that not being allowed to have a place to so-called ‘navel gaze’, being told that my emotions are navel gazing, is what limits people from expressing emotion. This, I believe, is what constrains some people from being able to take those first baby steps. If I sound like a child at times, it’s because I’m starting from scratch. Now onto some thoughts.

You asked, “Could you have somehow plugged your wife into parental mode and unconsciously used her for reliability and stability while you worked out other things?”

I’m going to pull this question apart, because it sounds like it might be two things.

Did our relationship turn into one where I rely on her as a stable presence, a parent of sorts? I think this is definitely part of the equation. We had our roles. She took care of our young children in a direct way far more than I ever did. I was not attentive as a nurturing parent in the early years. But I worked my ass off at my job and with the houses, and to this day I am struggling to replicate that discipline; it really burnt me out. But did I plug her into a parental role as complementary to my role? One thing I’ve explored in therapy is the notion of emotional control. My therapist has mentioned a few times that it seems I ceded that control to my wife. In other words, I allowed her to be the controller of emotion in our relationship. I relegated myself to the ‘doer’ role (bread winner), among a few other things. I was highly intimidated by her ability to have, express, and run circles around me regarding emotions. At a certain point, I gave up, and this was pretty early on in the relationship. While I projected my control in other areas (bread winner, finances, etc.), I had no voice (my choice, I ceded it). So, in this sense, you could say she owned the role of ‘all knowing’ parent. And I took the non-emotional role of ‘doer.’ Not really putting much thought into this response nor do I understand fully the impact. Lesson learned for me: ‘advocate for myself.’ Again, those vows. I now know that when I have a strong emotion, I need to spend a few days figuring out what that means for me. It’s intense. And if I don’t, I just ‘sweep it under the rug’ forever. Again, another vow. Confronting and facing these emotions and desires with the one I’m in relationship is critical. I know how simple this seems to most people. However, it takes A LOT OF PRACTICE for me.

The other part of this question: could we have somehow created stability in our roles while I worked on myself on the side?

I’ve struggled with this. I’ve thought about it a lot. I think it would’ve been possible. I would have needed to sacrifice a lot of the nasty selfishness that was endemic in me. But, coming up to about 2 years before Dday, I was preparing myself to ask her for that opportunity. When I finally confessed everything, which was so critical to stopping the mess I created, I gutted her in every way possible. I will never, ever forget the pain in her eyes…. I’m pausing her. I am so sorry.

So, I don’t know. Yea, I want to say, yes. I loved her very much, but I also wanted to die. I tried so many times (cheating and other things) to just erase myself and everything that I created. I wanted it to end. There are a lot of “I”s in this statement. It takes courage to hurt someone a little so you don’t have to destroy them in the end. I lacked that courage. I’m not going to let that happen again.

It’s crazy. She’s so amazing. She’s authentic. Transparent. Strong in that silent sort of way. This woman who I fucked over, who gave me beautiful children, took her last act in our relationship to save us as individuals. I consider it a gift. What I wanted for our lives and what I did, ugh.

Sorry for the thought babble. Hope that answers your question.

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