Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Honesty is the only way out"

These are the words my therapist said to me this morning, and they sit on my heart like a steel beam.

Tears rose in the absence of words to describe the gravity of what I felt as she said them. Inside I thought, "He is all I have and I'm all he's got. We are everything to each other. What a mess."

The "he" I was referring to was my husband, whose work is his "exit" from our intimacy and commitment to one another. My exit is sex and love with men who are married. In this way, we co-exist, quite painfully, but somewhat comfortably. Harville Hendrix, developer of IMAGO therapy, says until we both close up our exits, our relationship will always be damaged and never intimate.

My therapist says until I fully disclose to my husband the truths of my acting out, I will continue to use sex and love as a way of survival -- a way to avoid feelings that I now compartmentalize, feelings like guilt.

I had told her again, with tearful regret, that the reason I don't want to tell him that I have been beyond unfaithful in our marriage, is simply I don't want to ruin his life. I don't want to crush him with the truth. The truth seems so dangerous, so painful to me. It seems easier to carry it on my own, rather than think of shattering the spirit of yet another innocent victim of a horrible disease.

Still, she says, "Honesty is the only way out."

I am not hurting enough yet to be honest, she said. I can act out and say that it felt good and let the addiction wash away the painful truths of my deception.

She asks me how guilty I would feel if my husband had walked into the room the last time I acted out. I couldn't even bring the image into my mind. When I think about the reality of actually experiencing all the guilt that I have not felt while engaging in sexual and love relationships with other men, I honestly think I could not endure it. She says that enduring the guilt will set me free.

"So, what," I ask her, "I self-inflict the pain of the guilt by disclosure in order to heal myself, while I ruin his life?"

"Yes," was her response, adding that the truth comes out one way or another, whether we reveal it or not.

I argued with her ... people are and have been having affairs for centuries and taking the truth to their graves.

Yes, but to what cost? Living in painful marriages without the freedom of true intimacy, she responded.

I told her I heard what she was saying and even believed it to be true, but I know that I am not willing to be honest with my husband about how many horrible deeds of transgression I have done in our marriage without his knowledge. I simply am not willing to hurt him that way.

Pray for the willingness, she said.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to pray for the willingness to pray for the willingness.

It is not for selfish reasons that I don't want to disclose, I told her. But she challenged me. You don't want to feel the guilt.

When I think of that guilt and what it would be like to feel it, she's right. I don't want to feel it, and I feel certain it would destroy me.

As I drove to her office, I had a moment of consciousness, a brief second when I connected to that part of me that still feels alive. As I was turning the corner from one street to the next, I realized that at some point in my life, I learned to drive. It wasn't inherent knowledge. Someone taught me. And I practiced, and I learned to feel comfortable driving, even in major cities.

She encouraged me to remember I can take the wheel with this addiction also.

"Honesty is the only way out."


Anonymous said...

Wow! What a post!!

MargauxMeade said...

I have to agree with your therapist that all the things your husband doesn't know are already hurting him. They're hurting him in your lack of intimacy as a couple AND, most importantly, they're hurting him in the sense that not knowing how bad it's gotten is enabling him to continue in his workaholism. Think of it in terms of your codependency to his addiction. Just like you have to keep hurting until you stop, so does he. Sometimes we have to do things that hurt people not only for our own good, but for theirs as well. Telling him is not selfish, it's loving.

The Traveler said...

12 step programs don't require that you be completely transparent and expose everything to other parties, especially when it could do them harm.

They do require that you be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve sobriety and be completely transparent and honest with oneself.

You will have to work on what will provide you with your own personal authenticity, and balance it against the possible harm to others in disclosure.

One of the journeys for many folks in recovery is learning the greys and abandoning the black and white paradigm.

In the end, do what will make you the best person, and that will ripple out to those closest to you.

Sending encouragement,

The Traveler

The Traveler said...

I will add that I have a close friend who was in charge of special ops in a gulf war. In the course of his "work," he engaged in atrocities.

He has chosen never to disclose the details of these things to his wife, children, colleagues, or anyone except the professionals.

However, he does do what he needs to process this history of his and work toward healing and mental health.

Disclosure is definitely a grey area when egregious harm could come to those on the receiving end.

This is not an indication of what I think you should do concerning your disclosures, but rather a statement that you might wish to allow yourself the greys and not force yourself in the blacks and whites as you work through this issue with your trusted professional(s).


Mark said...

Powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing this, Rae. I don't know whether complete honesty is or is not the answer, but I have read that in recovery from abuse, there is a wall of fear to break through, and that the fear disappears when you come through the other side...

I wonder if you and my wife are facing similar issues, only where you have acted out, she has acted in -- shutting down and closing off her sexuality entirely.

Keep up your brave work on recovery! :)