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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:57 am 
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Despite being almost 4 years out from d day, I’m still bothered by objectification and it’s ruining my quality of life, not to mention the impossibility of a healthy relationship recovery. I know just about every partner knows it when it happens. I also know that the guys who write about their recovery experiences know they have to get this under some sort of control and have developed strategies like the 3 second “eye bounce”, that is, they look away and maybe remind themselves that this is a human being going about their daily business, not an object for their sexual fantasies. But that’s not my husband. He swears blind he doesn’t ogle or objectify yet he’ll also say it’s “natural” to look. But in any case I can’t get anywhere with him because he says he doesn’t do it. He does, and I can’t stand it to the extent I dread going anywhere with him and I don’t even like watching TV with him. It’s making me miserable.

I tried Vicki Tidwell-Palmer’s 5 Step Boundary Solution but it’s difficult to apply it to this particular situation. In truth, I can only guess or “make up” what I THINK I’m witnessing. I can identify my feelings of anxiety and my needs, but there’s no goal or outcome, no specific request I can make because he will get angry and insist he doesn’t do it anyway, so that’s a non starter. So the only way I can protect myself is to not go out anywhere with my husband and that isn’t exactly what I call a healthy relationship.

I get very sad about it. Since d day I’ve also become hypervigilant to the “attractive woman as threat” and I hate being this way. I don’t want to to feel threatened by someone’s youthful beauty or their good figure, or whatever. It’s a horrible way to exist. Before d day I could appreciate beauty but having inadvertently learned the objectifying male view of women, I think to myself “if my husband was here he’d be looking at her” because that’s what he does. In fact he’ll find an excuse to stall and have another look when he likes what he sees. The situations I’ve witnessed have been many. It’s a habit, or a compulsion he has. He would deny but it’s just so fucking obvious. He won’t do anything about it so my misery continues.

I accept that I can’t change what he does or how he thinks. I’ve tried to describe my own experiences of being objectified as a young woman, and to a lesser extent even now. I’ve told him it’s unwelcome and unpleasant, that no women wants to be perved over, or watched or followed, that it’s threatening because you don’t know how far someone would go or what their intent is. I told him that I was physically molested on the street. I told him I have been followed. I told him I’ve been watched by men who were covertly masturbating. Now, I know my husband hasn’t done this but there’s nothing benign about less intrusive ways of objectifying women. None of this made any difference.

Now I’m learning from addicts and how they control their triggers. These guys are triggered to want to act out. For me, it’s the threat mechanism that is triggered but it’s about managing the triggers as and when. So I’m now telling myself to look away, to look at a tree or a building or whatever else is in my field of vision. I don’t keep looking or look again to check whether this person is a threat, or second guess how my husband would react. I just look elsewhere. It’s a new thing for me, but I realised how damaging this way of thinking has been for me. Addicts SHOULD acknowledge their partner’s pain when they have felt triggered. Addicts SHOULD understand their partners are going to feel threatened. But that’s a vital part of the recovery process that my husband doesn’t get.

Was it any surprise when my husband told me he had been looking at porn recently? No, because he won’t address the problems around the edges of his addiction. His secretive masturbation, the not-quite-porn videos in his cookie history, his continued lying over things that aren’t even worth lying about, and the objectification habit. I saw the warning signs. He would have sworn blind that none of it was true. So I’m back to taking care of my own recovery. I can’t stand the way his addiction has polluted my life. It’s all such hard fucking work.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 7:49 am 
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Ah, Blue. I'm so sorry. It's so painful.

Leaving aside what to do about your marriage, and I know how hard that question is because many of us have been mired in that question, I wanted to share how I have handled the difficulties of objectification. It's awful, isn't it? And the culture...ugh. It's just so full of it. And I'm especially sensitive to the sexualization of teenage girls and younger (!) by advertising and our culture.

It's taken years for me not to end up objectifying other women and girls out of fears about my husband's acting out. What I had to do was spend a lot of time WITHOUT MY HUSBAND in the company of girls and women. When I'd worry about whether or not he would act out with these women or girls, I'd remind myself he wasn't there; that wasn't me; and I didn't want to miss out on the connection I have with women and girls. Over time, this worked. I can now be out and about, by myself, and if worry about my husband's acting out crosses my mind, it's very brief. I also used to have a tremendous desire to protect women and girls from my husband. I still do. I find that to be soul killing...the idea that my husband is toxic to women and girls.

When I'm with my husband it's more complicated. He's much better than he used to be about not ogling and staring. But who knows? He could be more sneaky. And the reality is, the two second rule is too long for my husband. He even says he can memorize a body with a glance and then fantasize for long periods of time. Is he still doing this? I don't know. He says not. I don't trust him, though. Maybe he is; maybe he isn't. I am so detached when I am out with my husband that I literally have learned to pretend he's not there when I start to worry. I don't think this is a great way to foster a healthy intimate relationship, but it sure as heck gets me through difficult moments.

Blue, my detachment from my husband has saved me. But there is no intimate relationship between us. There never was, really. He is trying hard to keep me with him but he struggles with intimacy. I think he just doesn't know how to do it and it makes him feel unsafe. He's in therapy and an active recovery.

But I've stopped waiting for him. I'm waiting for me to continue to heal, to find peace, to see how I move on with my life. I know I won't trust my husband ever again. I worry I wouldn't trust any man again. That makes me terribly sad. But I still have my life and peace, joy and fulfillment await me.

With deep compassion,
dnell


Last edited by dnell on Wed Jul 31, 2019 7:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 7:51 am 
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Oh, yes, I as well explained what it was like to be young and have men stare and ogle and comment. How scary and degrading it is. It was like talking to a wall.

dnell


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:12 am 
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Thanks dnell. Yes, I have noticed the difference when I’m out with female friends, that there is a feeling of freedom from “all that” in that they don’t objectify, nor are they distracted by the sight of every pretty young woman. I’ve also observed that most “normal” men don’t scan their environment and fixate on one particular woman but now and again you spot one who is. Recently I observed a man in his 60s accompanied by his wife of a similar age fixate on an attractive woman in her late 40s/early 50s who was with her husband. I noticed that the ogling man sat down in a place that afforded him a good view of his chosen target (who was oblivious to all this). I felt so fucking angry at this man and so sorry for his wife, and not only was his behaviour disrespectful towards his wife, it was also disrespectful to the other woman too. I hate men like that, seriously. They are nothing more than over-entitled creeps. I would say that I’d hate to be married to a man like that, but in reality I AM. And it breaks my heart to think I might as well have been looking at my future when I saw that couple.

I feel as if all my hope has gone. The future I believed was possible after d day was just another happy ever after fairytale. Every time I tried to make things better I have only ended up making things worse. I’m really at a loss about what to do other than strengthen my resolve to take care of my own needs. He says he loves me, that he couldn’t be without me, etc, BUT it’s all on his terms but he doesn’t actually state what his terms are.

I recently read about this idea of a “180” which is essentially disengaging from any expectations about the relationship and getting on with building a fulfilling life regardless of relationship status. Easier said than done, but about 1 year into recovery I did come up with my own technique of “if I was single...” and it was surprising even the little things I wouldn’t do for myself because I had learned to devalue myself — so easy to fall into this “I’m not worth the effort” trap when you feel chronically rejected. I guess I need to apply this concept more rigidly because the other side of it is a kind of self neglect and losing the very essence of myself in a dysfunctional relationship.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:53 pm 
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A progress report, of sorts.

I realise that I can’t control my husband’s behaviour. It’s that old cliche, but I think we all hope we can influence our partners by educating them on how it feels for us, as the female partner of an addict, and how it feels to be the object of unwanted sexual attention. But I now realise none of this makes any difference. But back to the other part of that old cliche — we can only control our own behaviour, and our own thoughts and so on.

So, it’s summer (in the northern hemisphere) which means that the female figure is a lot more visible. In previous times this hardly registered, but after d day I had that sort of awareness that happens once you can spot a species of tree or a bird you’ve just learned about. You see it everywhere and yet you were oblivious until you learned to see it. The thing about the objectification was that it wasn’t just seeing potential sexual objects but that there was a feeling of threat that was probably the bigger part of it, and in a survival sense, it makes sense to become hyperaware of a perceived threat. It’s not an emotionally healthy way to live, though.

Today I had to divert my attention over and over, more so because it’s a summer’s day and people dress for the weather. I did consistently well. I have little affirmations that I tell myself when I look away. I remind myself to pay attention to the architecture or to look at a tree, or something else. The shocking thing I learned today was the sheer potential to see “threat” anywhere and everywhere. On the other hand I believe I can train myself out of this with consistent practice. I do the same when I’m watching TV with my husband. If there is potential for objectification I will zone out and look to the side of the screen and have a little statement in my mind.

I am doing all this to regain my peace of mind and neutralise any emotional or physiological threat mechanism. I resent being put through all of this because of my husband’s addiction. I like to think I was a normal, well adjusted person before my husband’s addiction took hold. I really hate what it’s done to my emotional health. The damage goes really deep. All I want is to regain some kind of emotional equilibrium.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2019 9:08 am 
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Blue. Thank you for the update. Jon starts our lessons with "Life is unfair." And it is unfair what we have to go through to heal from our partner's addiction.

I hear the grief in your post. Grief for me, in the last year or so, has been at times overwhelming. Jon talked about letting it go, but I find it is a much longer, harder process. FOr me it was accepting my losses. I'll never get back those years. It's painful. But here is the silver lining in grief. It's self-respectful. It acknowledges we deserved better. That helps me to bear it.

I also hear your strength and resolve. To stay focused on yourself and your well being. You have been doing that and will continue to do that. I live in a beach resort community and summer is a challenge. I have a boundary of not going to the beach with my husband during the summer. Doesn't matter to me at all where he is in his recovery. I'm taking care of myself and not going with him. I have no problems with this. Wish it wasn't the case, but this is my reality.

Letting go of hopes about my husband has been life saving for me. I need to focus my hope on me and the changes I need to make. This change in me actually had an impact on my husband in that it scared him. I realized he had assigned me the role of holding "hope" in the marriage and when I stopped, the void was unmistakable. He needs to learn to find hope, express it, and bring it to the relationship. He's working on it. I'm not feeling it and not worried about it at all. Maybe that will change; maybe it won't.

I believe in you, Blue. I know all the beauty and wonder in you is still there. You are not crazy, or unhealthy. You are wounded. I am wounded. That can feel crazy and unhealthy. we do need to heal. We can.

Sending love and light,
dnell


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 10:01 am 
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Thanks, dnell. I went back to the beginning of the lessons to remind myself. It really is not fair. Even in recovery we’re not on a level playing field. My husband’s addiction, or perhaps his emotional abandonment of the relationship and his apathy, ripped through my self esteem. The mourning of the time lost and the opportunity costs over the years are sometimes to big to comprehend. Who would I have been if my husband had never developed this addiction? In life we have to come to terms with unrealised ambitions — that’s completely normal for everyone. In fact, it’s a necessary life skill and it’s those who don’t develop that skill that mess up. My husband had the classic midlife crisis and it made my life hell. It also coincided with his addiction taking hold and his behaviour towards me at that time changed too, in that he became verbally aggressive, shouting at me, and also being very distant and cold. I considered leaving him at that time but I stuck it out in the belief that “things would get better”. After d day I wished I had, because that was just the beginning of what was to come. So yes, the time lost and the opportunity to make a better life... I guess I’ll never know.

I also realised when looking at the early lessons that picking up the lens that makes me see the world through the toxic ‘male gaze’ of the addict is a corruption of my value system. It doesn’t respect people, in fact the addict doesn’t see the person so much as a body or collection of mix-and-match physical characteristics. Just about every woman knows how unpleasant it feels to be on the receiving end of unwanted attention from random strangers. It’s not the way that I saw the world. I saw the landscape. I saw colour. I saw nature. I saw architecture. I saw many different people, all ages, all sizes, all different. If I noticed a woman it was because there was something interesting about her. I love fashion so I would notice what people wear. I saw how people interact — a mother taking care of her precious newborn, or old friends meeting on the street, and so on. What I didn’t experience was a feeling of anxiety when I saw an attractive young woman, and the dread of how my husband was reacting or might react. I really don’t want to live this way. I hate being triggered. I hate the feelings that take me over, and I hate how it can ruin my day when I’m back in that headspace. I really can see now that my values have been compromised and corrupted. It’s like I’m having to work out my own therapy to deal with the triggers and return to a healthier way of moving through the world.

Another big thing I have a problem with is the damage to my body image. Why did this happen??! How did this happen??!! There is no way that I should ever have felt the way I did because there was never anything “wrong” with me, but somehow I had internalised all the toxic messages that tell women they are never good enough. There’s always some body part or physical flaw that needs to be ‘fixed’. My husband paid no attention to me when he was in his addiction. Unlike some men, he never told me I needed to change myself in some way, because I know that a lot of women ARE told by their husbands and boyfriends what they “should” do — and that must be awful. In contrast, my husband said nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I be stark naked in front of him and he would pay no attention whatsoever. I initiated sex whereas he never did. Never. And it wasn’t good sex. It was soul destroying bad sex where he would lose his erection, couldn’t finish, went to sleep and said nothing more about it. So there was plenty there to subtract from my self esteem until it was just about gone. And you know what astounds me about it now? How did I let this happen? Why did I put up with it? My self confidence had gone.

This is another big part of my recovery. I have to recreate a new body image and rebuild my confidence, and it’s not easy in a culture that makes billions out of women’s insecurities by serving up unsustainable and unhealthy ideals. This part of my recovery is about building resilience and resistance to these harmful messages. That’s not to say I’ve given up on fashion or wearing makeup, or wanting to look good. What it means is that I can appreciate the body I have and what it does for me. I’m certainly not a product to be judged or sold at a bargain price. This is where a lot of the nonprofit initiatives are valuable. They maybe aimed at younger women and teenager girls but their information is just as valuable to all ages and I’m so glad that the information is out there now.


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