Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why do we stay? A nod to Valentine's Day

I never really liked Valentines Day.  I'm one of "those" people who don't like the pressure and consumerism surrounding this holiday. I would much prefer my significant other NOT need a "holiday" to remind him to tell me or show me how much he loves me.  It just means a whole lot more to me  for him to do consistent, "small" things throughout the year, than make some big production on one day a year.

February 11th, however, had been a special day for me for many years.  On February 11th, 1997 (yes, I did just date myself a bit), this handsome man who had won my heart drove me in his ginormous Cadillac (I hated that car - it was so big it probably could've doubled as a boat) to this AMAZING place in Mendocino, CA.  He took me to a cliff on the ocean, laid out a picnic that he had prepared for me, sang me a song he had written for me, and then proceeded to ask me to marry him.

Yes, that is me, 17 years ago, on a cliff in Mendocino, CA.
It was very, VERY romantic.  

So, for 13 years, this day was set aside as a special day - a moment in time that had a powerful place in my heart and memory.  Year 14, however, was very different.  It was a day that I found out some news that was significantly "bad".  Why?  Why did it have to happen on this day?  My husband had given me the PERFECT long-stemmed red rose the day he proposed.  I had dried it to preserve it, and for our first Christmas together, he framed it in a shadow box.  That rose now taunted me - it mocked me and the pain I felt by the betrayal I faced- on this, the anniversary of our engagement.  The day I promised myself to this man 14 years before.  I won't get into the messy details, but it's safe to say that the shadowbox and rose met a not-so-pretty fate that day.

I must be honest, though - even then, even when I had smashed the rose into pieces, I couldn't find it in me to completely destroy or get rid of the rose.  I picked up the pieces that remained, gathered them together, and put them in a bag.  "Maybe," I thought, "someday I will be able to look at the pieces of this rose and not be taunted or mocked; maybe someday the symbol and significance of these roses will be redeemed."  

When we are in the middle of our trauma, it is difficult to not see things as "All black or all white."  Put another way - we often can only see our past and our SA as "All good or all bad."  Everything - every vacation, every special moment - even the love and relationship we had is "tainted".

In those moments, when we feel so betrayed, so lied to - tricked, even - it's difficult to look at ANY aspect of the relationship and not doubt the truth or sincerity of the moment. 

Well, here I am, year 17.  The past three years have not been easy.  There have not only been bumps in the proverbial road - there have been potholes, construction, and even a landmine.  But I continue to heal; continue to learn and grow; continue to press on toward my goal.  And my SA continues to do the same.

So, today I decided - "It's time."  The negative association I had with today has lost it's power over me.  It has been weaved into the fabric of my story.  I can once again look back at the memory of that beautiful day 17 years ago and see two people very much in love, and very much wanting to make a life together.  
  It was time to get the bag with the rose pieces out of my drawer, and find a place to put them that would symbolize the redemption this day has found in my heart.  I knew just the thing: I had seen this beautiful alabaster heart at a store - that was what I wanted for my rose. 

So, you may be thinking - "Nice story, Sarah, but what the heck does that have to do with the title of this post?"  I'm so glad you asked! 

I share my story about February 11th to express the answer to what so many people ask us when we decide to stay with our SA.  Or, for that matter, we ask ourselves... Why stay?

Now, I MUST couch this with the presupposition that we agree that we each have to decide what is best/healthy for us.  For some of us, we would be harming ourselves and possibly our children if we stayed with our SA - especially if our SA doesn't even acknowledge his addiction OR isn't pursuing recovery with due diligence.

Now that I took care of that little disclaimer, back to the why we stay...

Why?  When recovery is messy, and painful, and difficult?  Why - when it would be so much seemingly easier to just be done with the whole thing?  Why - when there are no guarantees for the future? 

Why?  Love.  In it's purest (some might say godliest) form, love is about wanting what's best for the one whom you love.  Why?  For some of us, there has been enough healing so far that we still have the hope and ability to see that a future free of SA is possible, with the one whom we love; we have had enough healing and restoration in the relationship that we have the strength to fight for our SA, and the relationship.

While I'm sharing loads of personal stuff today, why don't I just go ahead and share one more.  For a long time, my favorite artist was J.W. Waterhouse.  On a couple of our anniversaries, my husband got me some of his prints.  One, in particular, I liked, but didn't "get" until many years later.  Now, it carries a lot of meaning.  It's called, "The Tempest."  This - this painting captures love as I now know it - to look on tempests and not be shaken...which leads me to one of my favorite poems about love...

 Sonnet 116: Let me not to the marriage of true minds, by William Shakespeare

 Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. 
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

This is why I stay.  I am that woman in the painting.  I have looked on tempests, and have survived. 

Love is not about brightly colored boxes of chocolates and fancy dinners, or even beautiful, velvety red roses (though I DO enjoy all of those things).  Love is about finding that person who desires the best for you, and you for them - even if there's storms that must be endured, and some clean-up needs to happen. 

So whether or not you do enjoy Valentines Day; IF you are like me, and have decided to stay, why do you stay?  How would you put it into words?  What values do you attribute to the reason you are staying?  IF you are staying - what have you seen or experienced that caused you to make that decision?

For those of you who are in the place where you haven't yet made a choice to stay or go - don't worry, as you heal and regain your strength, your decision will become clearer and clearer.  Don't rush a decision just so that you have a decision.  Give yourself permission to take your time.

For those of you who have chosen NOT to stay - I am sorry for your loss, and I am proud of your bravery.  You, too, have endured tempests.  And you, too, have survived.  You have done the loving thing for yourself, by doing what was best for you. 

In closing, I need to tell you all I am most likely going to be changing this from a PULSE blog to a personal blog.  So, if you've been putting off clicking on that link to "follow" me, please do so before I change things.  You will get an email any time I write a new post. 

Take care of yourselves, ladies.

'Til next time.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Knowledge = Power

Okay, so I've been a bit busy working on trying to get a second group going for the women that I work with, as well as getting out into the community a bit more to help (hopefully) more partners of SA's.  This, along with my preparing for a workshop I'm doing at the end of the month on the 5 Love Languages, has caused my blog writing to fall behind.  I thought about putting the blog off another week, but for my few faithful readers, I didn't want to go MIA for too long.

So, this week's blog is going to be short but sweet, and I'm REALLY hoping for some interaction this time around (not so subtle hint!)!

For me, one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with being in relationship with a recovering SA is the confusion.  I mean, BESIDES my own emotions, which are here one day and WAY over on the other side of the mountain on another - there are so many questions; so many opinions and schools of thought about so many aspects of sexual addiction and how to recover; as well as the effects on the partner!  And don't even get me started on the new neuroscience findings as it pertains to SA!!!!

In my family of origin, intelligence is highly valued.  So, naturally, I gravitate toward increasing my knowledge and understanding about something if it affects my and my children's life.  

To me, knowledge = power.  Or rather, knowledge = the launching pad for power. Partnering with knowledge must be wisdom and action.  All the reading and studying, WITHOUT knowing how to use what you're learning, and then actually APPLYING it - is useless. I've heard it said like this: Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing NOT to put it in a fruit salad.  Simplistic, yes, but effective. This is not a post about using wisdom or taking action, but I felt I'd be remiss if I didn't mention those vital partners to knowledge.  

No, this post is about knowledge.  So, I thought I'd share some of the places I've found some.  

As a part of my blog, I intentionally follow Linda Hatch, Phd, and Barbara Steffens - two women who work with either SA's or their partners, and have good things to say.  I've learned from both these women. Recently, I was introduced to Rhyll Ann Croshaw. I've not read a lot of her stuff yet, but she had an article about co-dependency and trauma - http://rhyllrecovery.com/codependency-and-trauma/ that I thought was really well done - you might want to give it a read.  Of course, there's my coaching heritage (where I first started working with partners of SA's): Marsha Means -  www.journeytohealingandjoy.com.  These are just a few internet resources.

Here's a list of books I've either read, or have found that are on my list to read:

  • Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addictsby Stefanie Carnes
  • Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Healby Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means
  • I Love You But I Don't Trust You: The Complete Guide to Restoring Trust in Your Relationshipby Mira Kirshenbaum
  • “Living with Your Husband’s Secret Wars” by Marsha Means
  • "Intimate Treason: Healing the Trauma for Partners Confronting Sex Addiction" by Claudia Black and Cara Tripod
  • “Deceived: Facing Sexual Betrayal Lies and Secrets” by Claudia Black
  • Shattered Vows: Hope and Healing for Women Who Have Been Sexually Betrayed” by Debra Laaser
  • “Sex, Lies, and Forgiveness” by Jennifer Schnieder
  • Stop Sex Addiction: Real Hope, True Freedom for Sex Addicts and Partners” by Milton Magness
  • Surviving Disclosure:: A Partner's Guide for Healing the Betrayal of Intimate Trust” by Jennifer P Schneider M.D. , M. Deborah Corley Ph.D.  
  • “Open Hearts: Renewing Relationships with Recovery, Romance & Reality” by Ph.D. Patrick Carnes, Debra Laaser, Mark Laaser  
  • “Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship” by Stan Tatkin PsyD MFT
  • Attachments: Why You Love, Feel, and Act the Way You Do” by Dr. Tim Clinton (Author) , Dr. Gary Sibcy

So, there's a taste of some places we can acquire knowledge.  

What about you?  I'd LOVE to be introduced to other books or resources where you are finding knowledge and understanding.  I want to know what you've done/read, or who you "follow" - as it pertains to sexual addiction, trauma, recovery and healing.  And, the above list of books is a combination of books I've read and not yet read, but have found recommended places - do you have opinions on any of the above books?  Which ones have been helpful? Are there any that have been a hurtful, confusing or damaging read for you?  Do you have a, "You MUST read this book!"?  

Maybe one of my readers out there would be interested in being a guest "poster", and do a book review for the other ladies????? (Please let me know if this interests you - we can arrange it so you would be anonymous, if you'd like.  Just email me at: sarah@therapyworksaustin.org.)

The more we know - about ourselves, sexual addiction, the impact SA has on our lives, and how to heal - the more we have to go to as our "base" for wisdom and action - which will lead to our empowerment.  And this, my sisters, is what it's all about - us finding our voice and strength again.