Partner's Workshop: Stage Two; Lesson One
Preparing Yourself for Change
It may sound obvious, given that your world has been shattered by the one person entrusted to protect it, but it never-the-less needs to be said: your life has changed. Note the past tense. You have experienced something so significant that your life will never again be the same. And this is good.
You don't want your life to return to the ignorant bliss (or ignorant hell) that it once was. For one, that life wasn't real. Yes, the memories you shared were real, the experiences you had were real...but they were not what they could have been when shared between two healthy people. Any happiness that you experienced within your relationship was two parts genuine, one part illusion. Any intimacy that you shared was one part genuine, two parts illusion. This isn't something to grieve, it just is. And, it is the reason why your relationship can actually be better than it has ever been as a result of this traumatic experience — though that will likely afford you little comfort now. Bottom line: you don't ever want to return to such a life and thankfully, you won't. You can't. You can't undo the reality that has been forced upon you. You will either incorporate it into a healthy life as you move forward, or you will allow it to destroy the quality of the life that you live.
This is a CHOICE that you will make.
In preparing yourself for change, you will have to choose whether or not you will move forward with an emphasis on the quality of your life and the impact you will have on those around you; or whether you will allow yourself to be held hostage by the irrational and selfish behavior of another. Understand that this choice you make is irregardless of how sincere your partner is, or whether he is even capable of transitioning to a healthy life. You are not choosing whether or not to continue the relationship; you are choosing the type of life that you will be living from this point forward. A choice that you are making for yourself — to be embraced no matter what obstacles you may still have to face. It will be assumed that your choice is to proceed through your healing with the goal of improving the quality of your life. However, this is something that you will need to continue to assess on a regular basis. Because bluntly, it is easier to choose the other path. It is easier to allow victimization and chaos to rule your healing. It is easier to take a reactive route from the discovery to stability — and when you do, everything along that path is first filtered through emotions that distort, distract and delay healing. Throughout the aftermath of the discovery, keep your focus on what is ultimately important: your health.
Establishing a Safe Haven for Healing
Another preparation you must make is establishing a safe haven for you to rebuild what has been damaged. Some of this safety will be constructed through your boundary system as you proceed through the workshop, but initially, creating an artificial bubble where you can process, challenge, assess and adjust is essential. This bubble must also protect you from further damage perpetrated by your partner. Obviously, this bubble is not foolproof. You can sustain further damage and you likely will. In fact, every hour that you spend focusing on issues involving addiction and recovery are essentially, more damage to you and your value system. Necessary damage, but damage just the same? Why? Because every hour you spend reading another book on recovery or monitoring your partner's Internet usage, etc., is one less hour you have to invest in other, healthier areas of your life.
To create this bubble, first suspend any pressure you may feel to make major life decisions (like reconciliation or divorce). Your partner will likely be desperate for you to forgive him and/or for some guarantee that, should they do what they need to from this point forward, that they will get a second chance. They need this security — at least they think they do — in order to fully commit themselves to recovery. Don't feel pressured to offer it (or to use it as a weapon of control or reward). Instead, give yourself permission to just be yourself. Allow yourself to be confused, disoriented...even irrational. But at the same time, allow yourself to be happy and to enjoy those parts of your life that you can. Recognize that this isn't your life falling apart; it has fallen apart. And you are now putting it back together again. Recognize that while your partner's recovery is important — that managing it is his responsibility — as are the consequences. Recognize that your responsibility is to heal your own life — with the same focus and attention and energy as is given to recovery.
Developing Value Protection Plans
In the Recovery Workshop, participants are asked to create proactive action plans for strengthening their top fifteen values. In preparing yourself for change, you will want to do something similar, but for much different reasons. In recovery, their values have often been so skewed that they have no choice but to start from scratch and rebuild. For you, it will often be a matter of identifying those values that have been damaged, how you will repair them and how you will protect them from future damage. This will be the focus of this exercise:
Return to your vision created in Stage One; Lesson Two. Select the three most important values that you need right now to help you stabilize your life.
1. My role as a healthy mom to my children
2. Deepening my spirituality
3. Having a supportive mom
B) For each, think about the meaning and fulfillment you are getting compared to the potential meaning and fulfillment available.
C) Develop a specific plan that will allow you to maximize the potential in each of those three values.
D) List the steps you will take in the next 24 hours to begin strengthening each value.