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."
4 months ago