My last post seemed to have generated more interest and comments than I really expected. I am really grateful for the people who took the time to read the post let alone comment on it. It seemed like the majority of people do think that I would gain something from going back to counseling. I guess I still have questions/concerns/fears that I am not sure about.
The first is that I am currently in couple counseling with my wife. We are doing very well there as a couple, or at least she tells us that often. The only times we seem to have areas that seem to be concerns for her always revolve around me and my lack of ability to let things go. This includes the whole self-forgiveness issue but a few others as well. I can get how individual counseling may be able to help with this but it didn’t with my last counselor. He was great to talk to for a while and he gave me a temporary outlet but once I felt I wasn’t going anywhere I was pretty much done. How will this be any different? Is this new guy going to have a magic wand that will make me want to forgive myself? I don’t know that I want to. I don’t know that I deserve it.
Then there is the whole self-esteem, self-worth issues. I also struggle to see how he can help me there either. I know what I bring to the table. All of the good and all of the bad. There is not much you can do when the significance of the bad outweighs the good. Can this be helped over time? Sure. And maybe that is all I need. I just need to keep trying to do good things to outweigh the bad. Maybe a better way to look at it is with my overall self-image. Can I change how I view myself? And will counseling be able to help with that. Even as I write it all I can think of is that it is all smoke and mirrors. Perspective adjustments do nothing but change your perspective. Have I really changed who I am? Nope, I would still be the person I am but instead I just get to convince myself that I really am different. I cannot see how this would last without changing who I am to begin with. Maybe my perspective is jaded because of the number of counselors it has taken us, as a couple, to find a good one. I really don’t want to have to go through it all again. Also my experience in my work profession in doing exactly what I am describing above, just in a different setting.
Then you get to add in my control and connection issues. I aim to control every situation that I put myself in. I like to know the outcome before I ever begin so I can make sure everything goes according to plan. Can this be an issue? I know it is and I get it constantly reminded to me by numerous people including a number of readers. Add this to my issue of withdrawal when I establish a connection with someone. As soon as they know me too well or they are in a position to use what they no about me to hurt me I will withdraw quickly. I see it as a loss of control. I can no longer control what that person will do with my feelings, my secrets, my life and that cannot happen. Maybe you could classify it as a trust issue. When you live a life like mine where everyone I have ever cared about has hurt me, has done things to me that I only want to forget, then you quickly learn not to allow that situation to reoccur. This is one of my biggest internal battles right now with my wife. I know I need to let her back in all the way, but I just can’t. Not yet. I am sure she feels the same way about me. I hurt her immensely and that is not easily set aside. How would counseling help with this when I know as soon as I really begin to trust this person I will just pull away. I will stop going. I will find a way to justify not being able to continue.
The only argument that I cannot seem to have anything against is that I need to do it to help her heal. I need to do this to show her my commitment to getting better for her. I need to heal because she cannot heal without it. All these are very valid arguments that I honestly cannot dispute. The only thing I could say is one of the comments I got and that every situation is different and every path to healing is different. Some may need the individual healing and some may need to heal through their partner. Sure one road may be more difficult and more unfair than another, but life has never been about fairness. I want her to heal and the better she gets the better I feel, but am I really getting any better. I honestly don’t know. My wife had counseling yesterday and those days always freak me out a little. She had a good session and came back in good spirits but I my nerves were already shot. We had a good night together but still I was anxious and full of tension all night. So she felt better, but I don’t and so I struggle to say her healing is leading to mine. maybe it is. It just takes time to manifest itself. Maybe in a couple of days I will feel better and we will take another step forward. But I really don’t know if that is the case.
So, do I just do it. One person wrote that it won’t hurt. All it costs is time, money, and maybe a little bit of pride. I can see how you can think that but I feel it is more than that. I feel like I am risking everything inside of me by talking to any counselors. I feel like they could at anytime push me over the limit and I become something I have worked a lifetime to not be. I don’t like giving them any control over my life. This may seem like an extreme view, but whether or not it is realistic, it is how I feel.
These are the days I just want to walk out of my house and just keep walking. Forget who I am, where I am from, what I have, just walk. Once I am too tired to continue I would stop and begin again. I know I never could do it but again it is how I feel. It is all just part of the frustrating tornado of thoughts spinning in my head. This 4 day headache probably hasn’t helped but I just need to figure a way forward. Maybe I could just borrow a Delorian.
As I am learning in all my odds-and-ends “relationships” lately – it is most important to love oneself.
If you cannot love yourself, first and foremost, it’s nearly impossible to love another – and even more importantly, if you don’t love yourself, you can’t believe that you are worthy of that other person’s love. So you keep thwarting it, either consciously or sub-.
When I read your posts, I sense that you don’t believe that you are worthy of your wife’s love. Until you know you are worthy (absolutely 100% KNOW), with no doubts in your mind, I think you will continue to cycle through these thoughts and have these doubts
She has decided that you ARE worthy of her love – whether you are or not is completely irrelevant because SHE believes that you are… So you are!
Therapy may help you learn how to talk to yourself and help quiet the “evil voice” inside. Just getting up every day, smiling at yourself and telling yourself that you ARE awesome and 100% worthy of everything good is a nice start! Eventually you really will start to believe yourself 😉
It’s important that you heal too. Learning to love yourself will help your wife as well. It can take a long time to find a counselor that you trust enough to really open up to. Try to close your eyes and listen to your gut… It never steers you wrong. Healing is a process and finding what works is really trial and error. You are so committed, it will work out!
Hi B. I am also a B 🙂
I found your blog via a comment you made on another. I have skipped around yours and understand your story, I think. I have been in an emotionally intimate, but not sexual, relationship with a married man (I’m a single woman) for many years. You remind me (based on what you have shared here) so much of him. He was emotionally and physically abused as a child, and abandoned by his mother for several months after he was born (she sent him to her sister) and then again when he was a boy in grade school (maybe around 10 years old?). I believe from your story and knowing him as I do that you had the affair because you felt abandoned…rejected in the most fundamental way…by your wife. Not literally abandoned, but in a way that feels subconsciously like the same (emotional) abandonment by your parents. And you seem to play a game I call “you can’t fire me, I quit” that gives you the illusion of control over your vulnerability to see the risk, the whisper, of abandonment everywhere. If you weren’t “good enough” for your own parents, for whom could you be? So, like you my friend craves adoration, affirmation, validation…begs for it at times, because he has no self approval (which is learned when we are very young through healthy relationships with our parents), and I think very little from his wife (we don’t talk about his marriage but he has shared many, many stories about her over time). He is a “beautiful fucked-up man” (Sarah McLaughlin line) and it sounds like you are too. He suffers through daily cognitive distortions (read about that if you are unfamiliar) that make life so much harder emotionally than it has to be, because inside he is still and will always be a lost little boy, seeking (subconsciously) validation of his lack of worth. Make no mistake he has an outwardly successful and financially prosperous life. But he has been fired from every company he has ever worked for and has an adult child struggling to recover from alcohol and drug dependencies. When I first met him I would have definitely pursued more if he was free, and I see now after many years that would have been a mistake. But I do love him, and I have learned to accept his limited emotional capacity because I deeply understand him. He will never “get over” his childhood (he is a lot older than you, by the way) and maybe you won’t either. But maybe you can learn to live with what you can’t rise above.
Not sure if this makes a lot of sense, but I want to offer compassion to you, you seem like a good man.
Thanks for your comment. I hate to think that my childhood has any bearing on my as adult because I worked so hard to get away from that environment. It makes me sick because it feels like if my childhood is responsible for how I handle things then I feel like they are still controlling me. I can’t give them control over me ever again. I do feel I am a little luckier than your friend as I got to skip all the drug and alcohol problems that usually follow difficult childhoods.
I really like your insight and once again thanks for your comment. Who knows maybe we will both get lucky and find our way out of this maze and into the real world completely.
His kid is the addict, not him…
My apologies, I read that wrong. So one question I have and maybe it is for my own self-issues but if he is so damaged why stay with him? I wonder that about myself all the time.
I have asked myself that from time to time, especially when we have gone through times when he becomes a total “taker” (he has said to me more than once “you are a giver and I am a taker”). When I ask him the question, he says “I enjoy talking to you”. But it is obviously much more than that as I have attempted to end it more than once and he fights that. For myself, I can say that I have made a tremendous emotional investment him, we have fun when we are together, and he dramatically changed my life professionally and I am grateful for that and tell him regularly. And though it took a long time I have created strong enough boundaries that his fuckedupness doesn’t have a negative impact on me. For many years I tried to solve every problem he let me in on (never marital, usually work, health, and kids), or at least engage to a point that I was suffering emotionally. But I have detached a lot over the past year or so and it makes it easier to keep him in my life. I do love him, very deeply, despite his issues. I have issues too of course but mine are no match for the seriousness of his!
That is interesting because I think for the longest time I would have put myself in your shoes. I would listen, help, and support other people. I would put myself last but would give whatever I could to help. I have invested tons of time and emotion into a couple of these situations. And like you one of them came close to being an affair 4 or 5 years ago but I distanced myself very quickly.
Now I don’t know what I am. I feel like a taker with my wife and a giver with so many other people. I struggle to even know who I am most of the time. It can be beyond frustrating.
Why do you think you struggle with your identity? I am no shrink but I could guess that it is because you did not develop a strong sense of who you are when you were a child. From what I have read of your story, it sounds like you might have spent way too much time trying to guess at who you were supposed to be just in order to survive. If that is the case a good therapist can help you overcome it, and it is never too late.
From my own experience I can say I had to learn to see my parents as not omnipotent and omniscient, and that their harsh (emotional mostly) treatment of me was not about me not being good enough or smart enough or powerful enough to “deserve” their love and approval, but about their deep and destructive personality flaws.
I don’t know exactly what it is really. I don’t think I did when I was a kid. I think as a kid I knew very early on that I wanted to be nothing like the rest of my family and I thought I relished in the idea that I was different. I played sports and thought I developed an identity there, but it was also an excuse to escape the reality of the rest of my home life so I don’t really know how that played into all of this.
I never had to worry about being good enough or smart enough because my parents didn’t care. I was the one that cared for myself, but after a few things that were unjustly done to me where I knew if either of my parents would have gone in and talked with the teacher then it would have been cleared up, I just didn’t really care any more. I am very smart so my grades were good but I could have done way better and way more.
Who or what I am now? Professionally that is easy, the rest, not so much. And it is the rest that I struggle with and am so unsure.
I guess I have been avoiding and running for so long I have never had time to stop and take stock of myself. I really don’t know, it is a frustrating question to say the least.
By the way, there are PLENTY of people on these blogs who would say my relationship is an “emotional affair”. I think that is in the eyes of the beholder, and don’t care how it is labeled. They would also like to dismiss it as being a fantasy because we don’t pay bills or share household and life management responsibilities. There is nothing about the relationship that is a fantasy. We talk intimately about everything under the sun, and work hard at our relationship each in our own way.
Flaming will commence in…3…2…1…..
Can you break it down into components? What do you love, what do you not like, what do you believe, what makes you happy, etc. And not answer based on what anyone would expect or approve or disapprove?
Can I break it down? I have never tried, lets see…
Love – Kids, wife, ….. ummm, kids, wife. Did I say those already?
What do I believe? – Help others if you have the chance??? All that I once thought I believed seems to be hypocritical now. So I don’t know what I believe. I just try and be a good person and teach my kids to do the same.
What make me happy? I could only come up with two things – the look and smell of fall and the look of true happiness on my kids and wife’s face.
This is not overly knew as I think I have been asked what I love and what would make me happy from my old counselor and our current marriage counselor. I really don’t have answers to these questions, at least not real answers. I feel more like I float and live off others emotions and experiences. Maybe I just think to much.