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Advice on Temporary Separation? How to Structure Time Apart

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sundance posted 9/11/2020 20:34 PM

Wayward Recoverer,

Are you always so agreeable, polite?

What does your therapist say about your need to
"play safe" with your words?

In separating, are you possibly running from confrontation?

secondtime posted 9/11/2020 23:09 PM

What was your understanding of the addiction at the time? How has it evolved? What was your husband's understanding of his addiction? How has his understanding changed? If you don't mind sharing some of that info.

My husband (whose MO is porn and compulsive masturbation) worked with a CSAT for 3 years. I watched the kids when he went to his appointments. Gave him time to read and do the exercises. Our relationship was awesome. I was feeling special, etc.

I wasn't aware that though it appeared he was "doing the work" he really wasn't "doing the work."

He started slipping after he stopped seeing his CSAT. After all this work, my husband still had not accepted he was an addict.

Going to a 12-step program seems to have helped this time. At least, I think in his heart of hearts now, he accepts that he's an addict. But, I don't think he's dealt with any of the shame. Has not developed any empathy, really. Too interested in being defensive when I called him out on his shit, really up until Jan of this year. Which was 2.5 years sober, this stint, 5.5 years sober total. So much "work" left to do.

It took all this time for me to understand that my husband's emotional development arrested when he was 13. Progress is just so damn slow. I mean, we're 45 now. One cannot make up for 30 years of emotional maturity in 2 or 3.

I now have a better understanding that his addiction is life-long, and being 10 years older, now I have a better grasp at the enormity of that. I have a better understanding of the choices he will make. I have a different way of judging whether or not he's capable of long term sobriety. The first time around, I didn't ask if he'd processed his shame. I didn't think to ask if he truly accepted that he was an addict in the pit of his stomach. I also know, enough now, to understand that my husband does not have intimate conversations with me...I am grateful he is able to be emotionally intimate with his 12 step group and his therapist (#2, that he started seeing right before covid). That does mark progress. But, as I tell him, I am his wife. His sponsor, his therapist..they are not married to him.

JBWD posted 9/15/2020 20:17 PM

Any news, WR? Hope to hear you all are progressing on a plan...

MyAndI posted 9/15/2020 21:41 PM

Separation is a bad idea, IMHO. You can set some rules to give each other space but still stay together. You don't have to be around each other every minute, but you should be around if you need to talk to each other.

We tried temp separation and it actually made R harder. We felt we were losing the connection apart, even though things were raw for awhile after my DDay.

WaywardRecoverer posted 9/16/2020 15:04 PM

Hi all!

Thank you everyone for your replies. I apologize for the delay in my response - I had a weekend getaway with my husband and it was really therapeutic and wonderful for us both.

JBWD, thank you for your closing advice. Self-deception is a tricky beast but I think I am starting to peel back the wrappings over my eyes and feel confident about the direction I am headed. I have read that book as well actually! Thank you for the recommendation.

Sundance, I am always this agreeable and polite. I am a people-pleaser and a conflict-avoider. That is partly why I behaved the way I did. My therapist and I feel this is a form of learned helplessness from early childhood trauma, neglect, and abuse. However I don't think I am running from confrontation. My husband and I have been having confrontations about this for nearly 2 years, and it has not helped us because I continue to enact conflict-avoidant communication. My therapist, my husband, and I agree that since I have never been truly alone, this is a healthy move for me to do some serious self-reflection.

Secondtime, thank you for your story. That sounds really hard. I appreciate this insight. I feel my emotional development was arrested at around 16, and as I am now 26, I have 10 years to make up for. I feel more hopeful and as I mentioned, I am really starting to accept all the bad things about myself that I tried to avoid dealing with to protect my ego.

MyandI, thank you for that last response. I appreciate it because my husband and I actually came to a similar conclusion.

As for an update on what we have agreed to, we have decided that I will go away to my grandparents starting Friday. I will stay for 2 months, and then we will go on a trip together for Thanksgiving. We will stay in touch via phone and text since we are in couple's therapy and need to be able to do the work we are given there. To MyAndI's point, we feel it will help us stay connected while also working on our own emotions. If we feel further separation is needed, we will explore that option starting in January. I have created a document for myself where I list all the problems that led to my infidelity, and a process for repairing that. I plan to go through my childhood, do some EMDR with my therapist, and examine underlying trauma that turned me into this person. Then I am going to ask the hard questions about values that was mentioned above by ChamomilleTea, and decide on some things I want to center in my life. Then I will tear down my unstable foundation, and finally try to accept and love myself where I am, even all the bad stuff. I am lastly going to rebuild my foundation using those new values I decided on. I'm going to finish this off with a private ceremony for just me where I cast off my old self into the ocean and come out giving myself a second chance at life. I have been suicidal for many, many years and my self-destructive streak has been an expression of my unwillingness to live for myself.

If anyone has read "I Cheated: Affair Recovery Advice for when you have been Unfaithful" by Savannah Ellis, she identified 5 different kinds of affairs. I fit the bill of the "conflict avoidant" affair. She says at a young age, I learned not to address conflict or rock the boat, or else I would be punished. This led me to not bring things up with my husband. I found other people to share my inner thoughts and feelings with, which is why it became an emotional affair. I continued to deny the relationship with them, and due to the addiction, allowed myself to get so drunk that I did not respect myself and my boundaries, thus the kiss. This form of self-destruction was another expression of my secret desire to ruin my life so that I did not have to live it anymore.

Ultimately, my therapist and I feel that the poor boundaries, lack of assertiveness and confidence, addiction, and lack of strong convictions can be traced back to early childhood trauma, neglect, and abuse that was repeated and replayed over and over in my childhood. As I work with my therapist in EMDR, I am remembering instances of verbal and emotional abuse, and it is highly possible there was physical or sexual abuse that I have blocked out. While I deeply regret the pain I caused my husband, it was due to the learned helplessness that my parents ingrained in me as a child and the self-destructive self-harm and suicidal feelings my upbringing left me with that went unaddressed into my adult life. My goal in the next 2 months is to process emotions that were never processed from throughout my childhood and finally start living for myself. My therapist noted I have been in "freeze" mode (think fight or flight, but with the additional response of "freeze") since I was very young. I also mentioned before I have had multiple suicide attempts, and even my alcohol use was a form of self-harm and suicidal behavior.

Thank you all for your input and advice. It meant a great deal and helped me decide how to use the next 2 months wisely. I truly appreciate your time, thoughts, and input.

JBWD posted 9/16/2020 21:38 PM

Good approach and update.

I’ll just reiterate that I don’t necessarily believe we have to be HARD on ourselves per se, but I advocate very deliberate assessments of the feelings you’re going to feel to ensure that we’re being honest with ourselves. We’ve proven susceptible to the deceit of emotion, and we need to triple check if we continue to believe it now. On your own it’s going to be even more difficult to have someone provide objective feedback.

Bottom line is we as cheaters will frequently find a good way to “substitute.” During the A we substitute sex and intense emotion for intimacy. AFTER the A we generally substitute guilt and shame for accountability and remorse. So I encourage you to not let such moments alone convince you that you’re “doing your time.” Feel the feelings, but don’t let the narrative win that says you’re the victim and out of the woods. We play the hand we dealt, and facing that with honesty and gratitude to those who face it with us is the continued path to a different place: It might not be better as we expect, but we as people will certainly better.

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