Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Boundary Agreement




I have two Boundary Agreements with Devin.  One is signed and dated and the other is an email we sent back and forth months later, a more “common sense” agreement.

The idea behind the Boundary Agreement is two-fold.  It allows the partner to set their boundaries while enforcing consequences when the boundaries are broken and helps create a safe environment for the partner.  Secondly, it informs the sex addict of what the partner is willing to tolerate within their relationship and what to expect when the boundaries are crossed.  It helps to define guidelines of acceptable behavior within the relationship.

It would seem that a mature couple would already have these guidelines, dare I say, rules, established before they get married but surprisingly most married couples make the assumption that their partner will not cheat on them or that they both have the same understanding of what cheating means.

However, not every person feels the same way about what the definition of cheating means or what is acceptable behavior within the confines of a relationship.

One couple may not have any problems with their spouse exchanging emails with someone of the opposite sex and not knowing it’s being done, what’s being said or perhaps that pictures are being exchanged but another couple may not feel that’s acceptable.  There are of course levels to these emails; I took it to the extreme.

Some couples may feel fine with their spouse going to lunch with a co-worker of the opposite sex and confiding in them about personal problems that are going on at home, while other couples may feel that is crossing a line.  What about a simple smack on the ass at work or a neck rub?  Where does that fit?

One couple may need to know where their spouse will be during the day or after work while another may not have any concerns at all and be confident that their spouse is just “doing their thing”.

Everyone is going to be different and in my case all the above is off limits for Devin.  They never used to be but they are now.

Of course, when dealing with a sex addict, that Boundary Agreement is a contract that must be written or at least verbally agreed to in a way that the partner can stick to.

For instance, in my Boundary Agreement, I have written and signed that if Devin cheats on me on-line or in person, I will leave.  This is something that I know I can abide by under no uncertain terms. 

I also have if he slips and/or relapses I must be notified by him within 24 hours or I will withhold affection for three days. 

Sounds crazy right?  Like I’m punishing a child?  In a sense, I am punishing a child, a grown man-child.  Sex addicts tend to stop maturing at the age of their first sexual acting out and/or experience.  They need to know there will be consequences for their actions or they will not stop the behavior.  That’s why it’s so important to create a boundary that can be enforced by the partner or it’s useless.  Much like the mom who says “Don’t make me take that toy away!” and then does nothing when the child continues to misbehave.  Nothing is learned.

Devin thrives off of my affection for him.  He loves to be loved and feel my hugs and my kisses and when I take that away, it hurts him.  It hurts me too but I have to stick by the consequence…and, in all honesty, as time has passed the typed document has changed and been tweaked verbally.  I was a week after Disclosure Day and a mental nut case…a dictator with a crushed heart.  I knew next to nothing about this addiction and it shows it my Boundary Agreement. ****eta (after writing this post I updated the BA in writing)

My “common sense” agreement I still stick to because, well, it’s common sense. Text me when you’ll be running late, things like that. 

Devin HATED, HATED these things when I first put them in place.  He felt like I was trying to control him because, at the time, he had been so completely out of control.  Now, it’s simply second nature and he’s not bothered at all.  It's something we rarely use because his recovery has come so far.

Note: When I wrote this in 2012, I was using a very strict Boundary Agreement. Now, in 2017, each of our recoveries have evolved to a point that the Boundary Agreement has also evolved and changed. There are still the obvious boundaries I have: if he cheats, I leave. If he slips, I need to know, but we talk things out rather than me having him sleep in another room or withholding affection...unless I'm uncomfortable with it. If I am, I communicate that with him an in healthy and respectful way. I feel that each couple will be different as they navigate through the process of recovery. The important thing is to make sure you're feeling emotionally safe and do what works for you.

  
Also, a great book that has nothing to do with sex addiction but is about how to trust again after an affair:  Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass - it rocks!

Or the one I wrote:


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Denial and Detachment

Edited to add at 2:30 p.m.:  This was a scheduled post from last night.  I woke up with a Migraine and it's gotten progressively worse throughout the day.  Please forgive me if I don't get back to your comments or your blogs until tomorrow.  Thanks for understanding my rockin' Hooligans!  

**Potential Trigger Warning for SA partners**

2008

“I’ll sleep in the spare bedroom tonight.  You’ve been snoring.  I have to get some sleep.  Sound good?”  I asked already knowing the answer.

“Yeah.  Okay.”  Devin replied, not looking away from his computer.  He had two now.  A Mac and a PC. I never really questioned his need for a second desktop.  I knew his PC had been crashing lately.  When I allowed myself to think it through, I knew it was because he was getting viruses from the porn sites he was visiting. So, I tried not to think it through very often.

I walked further into the bedroom to see what Devin was looking at and tensed at the sound of him clicking quickly out of a site on the screen.  He opened up a different website but had one minimized at the bottom of the screen.  I couldn’t read the name of the site and allowed myself to dismiss its importance to the deceit and lies that were becoming the norm in my marriage.  I knew it was a porn site, I didn’t have to physically see the site, I could read the guilt in Devin’s eyes. 

I said nothing. I added another brick to the wall that I was building in my wall of denial.


Instead I kissed him but got no response in return.  When questioned, Devin replied, “What do you want from me? I feel detached.  Detached from you.  Detached from the kids.  Detached from work.  Just fucking detached.” 

He tells me now that there are chunks of time he can’t recall, wasting away at the computer.  That moment though, he recalls vividly.  It pains him because he literally felt detached from life and wanted to stop looking at porn and couldn’t stop looking, page after page, site after site, and to comfort himself he drown himself in even more porn.

I vividly remember that night too.  I lay in the extra bed wondering what he meant.  Detached?  As I lay there battling with insomnia I heard him stumbling around in the bedroom, I heard the creak of his desk chair.  I worried he might have a low blood sugar and finally went to check on him.

I walked quickly around the corner into our bedroom to find Devin on a vulgar porn site, and with (what I learned years later) an IM box open while he was looking for his webcam that he kept hidden from me.  He quickly turned the monitor off.

I said nothing. I added another brick to the wall that I was building in my wall of denial.

2012


It is now me that is learning a healthy type of detachment.  I was in a very unhealthy form of detachment just a couple of weeks ago.  The pendulum had swung from one degree to another.  I was enmeshed in Devin’s recovery, then backed off to a healthy level but still had a problem not “mothering” him.  I decided to detach myself from it completely.  Give it all to him. 

That is what I am supposed to do.  However, I was beginning to detach completely from him.  The survival skills I had learned while I was an addict kicked in.  I put up walls.  I should be a mason.  I’d rock and roll at it.

The only problem is, the walls got so big and encompassed so much, that I began not to care about anything pertaining to Devin.  That is not a healthy place to be.  Not to worry.  I didn’t stay that way for more than a week or two before I realized that when he told me something I should be happy about or even mad about I didn’t care. Instead, I was throwing it into the same place where I store his recovery. 

I saw my rockin’ counselor and she assured me that I wasn’t as bad off as I thought I was simply because I recognized the unhealthy detachment.  That I could be detached but still love my husband and remain mentally healthy too.  I needed to remain somewhere in the middle.

The best part is now, there are no more nights spent apart from my husband.  Turns out he has sleep apnea; okay, that’s not great but at least he has a c-pap machine and I can be next to the man I love every night.  There is no more clicking out of the computer screen when I walk into the bedroom.

Oh, and the PC?  That mo-fo made it’s way to the dumpster December 7, 2010…along with the webcam and various other items Devin turned over after disclosure...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Unashamed


Good morning my Hooligans!  It is rainy here.  Here is your warning – today’s post is a serious one.  Run while you can…

This is written for those of you who continue to lurk in the shadows (thank you, I understand), for the ones who feel the need to remain anonymous as partners of sex addicts or as the addicts themselves.  It’s not easy and I want you to know that one day you will feel the same way that I do, unashamed.



If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I am a recovering cocaine addict.  I’ve been sober for twenty years and have tons of stories to share.  I hold no shame for anything I’ve been through.  I’ve let go of that pain and I’ve learned so much about myself from that time in my life.  It’s like a whole different person went through it back then – a whole separate chapter in my life.  It’s closed and done.

The same is coming true for what I did while Devin was acting out. Many labels can be placed on it – enabler, codependent, survival, denial – it doesn’t matter what I call it or label it, as long as I recognize that it is unacceptable behavior for ME

Let me clarify that. My core values had been compromised.

The behavior I’m about to describe went against MY core beliefs.  Please do NOT tell me how fantastic YOU find porn.  You cannot understand this behavior until you’ve been faced with it.  I used to enjoy porn too.  It was a healthy behavior for me in moderation.  However, when you’re left feeling like you’re competing with images on a screen…it’s no longer healthy. 

Here is MY story.  MY shame:

I share this so that you will know you are not alone.  Please understand that as I write this, my heart is racing.  My fingers tremble and every ounce of me wants to hit delete and walk away.  However, I know that there are several of you out there that will be helped by this and for every asshole out there that gets his rocks off by reading this, there is a woman out there who will read this and nod her head and cry and recognize herself and not feel alone and ashamed.  This is for you.  You are NOT alone.  You CAN do this.  You ARE LOVED.

What started out as “normal”, “healthy” porn viewing for me began to escalate through the years.  Devin and I decided that we would only watch porn together.  This was my attempt to control his porn viewing when I became uncomfortable with how much he was viewing it alone.  What I didn’t realize was that I was only fueling the fire of his addiction.  I was feeding his fantasy and at the same time, stagnating that fantasy so that he needed more of a rush to “get off” which meant he went further underground.  It was a recipe for disaster.  I was watching porn on the computer with him, looking at porn sites and thinking everything was just peachy keen in our world.  He learned how to become a master at secrets.

Meanwhile, his fantasy world was getting out of control.  He began asking me to buy high heels that I never would consider wearing but in order to keep up with the women I saw on the computer screen, I bought them to try to make him happy. I ordered lingerie from Fredrick’s of Hollywood and Victoria Secret, and sexy sundresses and more high heels…anything to grab my husband’s attention away from the computer screen.  Away from the women that he was looking at instead of me.  Nothing worked.   I couldn’t dress up sexy enough to compete with these women.  My self-esteem had hit an all time low.  I looked in the mirror and the woman I saw looking back wasn’t 37, 5’2” 115 lbs…she was old and haggard and broken and shattered into a million pieces. 

She was worthless.  She became detached and withdrawn. 

When Devin asked what I thought about attending a local group sex party, I was all for it.  Why not?  What did I have to lose?  I had no dignity anyway.  I emailed the group. Twice.  Once again, God was looking out for me.  They never emailed back.  Of all the things I did while Devin was acting out, this was the thing I held the most shame over.  The What If’s (what if we went?, what if I got pregnant?) ran through my mind endlessly but I was able to let them go, finally…

I was also able to release the shame too.

I had compromised MY core values.  I lost MY core beliefs and allowed Devin’s addiction to dictate my actions.  I had become a passive simpleton of a person.  I lost any backbone I had ever had.  It was horrendous.

Now?  Now? I’m inching towards two years since my first Disclosure Day.  I thought I’d be completely healed by now.  I really did.  I remember going into the first marriage counselor’s office, a guy who never heard of sex addiction, and saying, “Shouldn’t I be over this by now?” and his response, “Dear, it’s only been a few months…” and I hadn’t even been told about the affairs yet, only the online crap – I wish it had just been online - and then being told by my rockin’ counselor, that it would take at least two years for me once I started the steps and it could take FIVE years for Devin…FIVE years…holy shit batman…okay, I’m rambling and as tempting as it is to go back and delete, I don’t do that here on my blog. 

My point, before I went off on the above, out of nowhere tangent, is that as much as I held shame for all the things I did while Devin was acting out, I’ve accepted them now. I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’m moving forward.  

My hope is that by writing out all of this, I have helped someone.  That my shame can show someone they are not alone.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer of Elsie


It has begun!  What?  You didn’t know?  How could you guys not know?  I thought all of you were my Hooligans *gasp*  I’m just in shock!  Utter, no, wait, that’s for cows, Udder, no, that’s the one for cows, damn it to hell!  Whatever!!  I’m trying to act very, over-the-top surprised here – that you don’t know, The Summer Of Elsie has begun!!

Seriously?  You don’t even know what the Summer Of Elsie is?  Oh, um, my bad.  Sorry about that.  I guess I should maybe explain then.  Uh, yeah.  Okay.  Here it is, then:

It’s all about ME!! (When isn’t it, right?)  Yep.  I decided to take the summer off and focus on me.  Yeah, it’s pretty much been in effect for the last few weeks or so but now it’s going to be all official and stuff because the kids begin their summer break this week.

I’ll be working in the garden like I did today, see:



Or taking my youngest to the beach or the pool or I’ll be working on my book or my blog, or my steps...whatever…it’s just the Summer Of Elsie.  Time to chillax.

Seriously though, I’ll be on Blogger in the mornings but I won’t be writing as many posts as I normally do (lucky you!).  I’ll still visit everyone’s blogs in the mornings or in the evenings. I simply won’t be here during the day anymore. 

Unless I’m down with a Migraine – then I’m like a plague…you can’t get rid of me!! 

Happy Summer Of Elsie everyone - I mean Happy Summer everyone!!


Friday, June 8, 2012

Elsie Tripped While Climbing The Steps


I’m going to tag this post as a Journal Entry and be nice and give you guys, my Hooligans, the “Danger! Will Robinson! Danger!”  alert.  Elsie is setting out to type a long and rambling piece of some sort….

This is my sixth or seventh attempt at trying to write this post and I can’t quite find the write (see what I did there?) way to “frame” it.  Instead, I’ll just journal it from the heart…like the old days.

Yesterday was a big day for me.  I completed my fifth step.  This means I took my fourth step and presented it to someone I felt I could confide in.



         Step 4.   Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5.   Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

After I completed my fourth step, I felt happy, I felt a sense of completion because I had been working on it for so long.  I had worked through a ton of mental crap.  I drudged up a lot of painful memories, some from my childhood, some from my teen years, some from my time with my first husband, then while being a widow and now, my most recent pain, being married to a sex addict and all that pain that comes with it. 

I picked apart each piece, examined it a bit more carefully than I had before and put it back in its place.  I was able to find forgiveness in myself for mistakes I had made in my recent past (I had already forgiven myself for old mistakes).  I was able to find forgiveness for Devin for his mistakes.  I have come to realize that I am able to look at Devin’s past, his addiction, the way I look at my own, without immense pain or shame.  I cannot change what has happened, I can accept it, forgive him, and move forward. 

That’s the path I have chosen.  It is a path that may eventually lead to more pain, but it is the one I am choosing for now.

I also found character flaws I need to work on fixing and while I was aware of them and accepted them as a part of “me” yesterday…today…not so much…

Let me see if I can explain…

Yesterday, after I did my fifth step I felt, I don’t know, “free”.  Imagine telling someone you kinda, sorta, almost, know, your most intimate and deep thoughts and secrets.  This person has been exactly, exactly, where you have been.  Walked in your shoes.  Traveled your path.  As you speak, you see this person nodding their head in recognition.  Any fear or shame that you held for sharing your secrets is gone in a flash.  *Poof*  They understand.  They “get it”.  Been There, Done That.  It didn’t matter that I had shared these things with various people throughout the years in bits and pieces or even with Devin in its entirety.  There was something about sharing it, concisely, in an organized manner after having gone through it so thoroughly myself. 

My moments of pain, my moments of fears, my moments of embarrassment, sprinkled with some highlights of my good qualities and my humor and dashed in with some shameful events and admissions and I came out a brand new me.

It was freeing!!  I felt a weight being lifted from me yesterday as I came home and reflected and finished working in my workbook.  I was elated.

Then, this morning. 

I began working my sixth step:

Step 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

It seemed easy enough yesterday.  I had admitted I had the defects, why wouldn’t I want them “removed”? 

Here’s what I said the last time I talked about this:  

"I'm not going to ask God to remove the "defects" of character because they make up who I am. While I'm not proud of the things I have done in my past, and I have regrets for some of things I have done, I don't think I am defective in any way.  I am me and God knows me for who I am and still loves me "as is" - that's my God."

I recognize some of the things, such as to much pride or hanging onto resentment and anger, I see the need to free myself of these things.  However, to “hand it over” to God and have Him release me of it??  I just don’t sit well with that.  It seems to me that it’s MY job, not his. 

Then again, one of my issues is control, isn’t it? 

I guess I need to talk to my rockin’ counselor about this on Monday…