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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2014 10:31 am 
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Joined: Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:22 pm
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After one year, my partner is committing to recovery and has just begun work here.

I have reached a point where I'm not so volatile and I feel like I have some perspective on SA. I am trying to hear my partner's disclosures with compassion and without judgment. However, I feel like there are times when I need to call bullshit when he is not being honest with himself. He says that such brutal honesty makes him feel worse and prevents him from wanting to open up with me.

So my question is, how much honest feedback do I give at this very early, vulnerable stage?

The specifics:

My partner was arrested for voyeuring under women's skirts with a camera. In a frank conversation this morning, he was opening up about how he believes some women suspected what he was doing and walked away.

I related it to an incident on a bus where a man was masturbating in the seat next to me. Instead of calling attention to him or telling the bus driver, I was so caught off guard that I just got off the bus. I told my partner how that incident has affected me and that I feel bad for the women that he probably affected in that way.

His response was that he feels better knowing that at least he wasn't as bad as that guy because he would never expose himself in public. I said that I thought he was in denial, since what he's done seems like much more of a violation to women, whether they knew what he was doing or not.

He said that I made him feel worse instead of better to think that he's a bad person or that I see him as that bad of a person. While he was in a good, optimistic place starting RN, he now feels bad and less like opening up to me, which is not constructive to his recovery. He wants to be able to open up without me judging him.

I want to be able to call bullshit on his rationalizing when I see it, because I want to be 100% honest going forward (my boundary), even when it's hard to hear. But is that much honesty derailing his recovery? I do not want to give unconstructive feedback and certainly don't want to make him feel bad in a way that makes him want to act out.

So my question to both sides is how much honest feedback is harmful at this stage? Do I keep such observations to myself to allow my partner a safe place to open up so we can build more trust? I told him I would ask the forum.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:46 am 
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I think many partners will identify with your dilemma. There are so many times I've been in a similar situation.

As an example, my husband was starting once to tell me about his lying - as if he were the professor and I the lucky student. He started to light up in a way that I had not seen anything healthy light him up for some time - so delighted to brag about a skill. I cut him off cold, telling him that I see no value in that skill, that anyone who is willing to abuse someone else's trust can be a "good liar" and seeing him delight in recollecting his methods of deception made me very sad and I would not participate in the conversation anymore. My cold response made him feel about 2 inches tall and therefore also made him angry and defensive.

The shame he felt then and after several similar situations became a barrier that we continue to straddle in our relationship. I think these moments illustrate why partners are not well suited to recovery support. There is a new reality both partners are feeding each other that is incredibly painful on both sides. The partner is glimpsing a mindset and actions we did not know existed in our partner - and it often revolts and disgusts us. The recoverer is seeing in our reactions that they were right - the behaviors they were ashamed of and hid are unacceptable and rejected - and they are so ingrained & attached to their identity that it feels as though it were the recoverer himself that were being rejected. That is a harsh reality for both of us! Recovery and healing are only possible if both parties are truly committed to moving forward with reality, because there is no way to avoid that their behaviors trouble us, and are normal to them. It is a painful, unfolding of reality and the healing partner is generally the only one able to contribute any perspective or maturity to the situation. I think recoverers, ideally should have more of those conversations with a disinterested 3rd party that won't provoke their shame, until they've built up enough maturity to endure their partners' reactions.

Anyway - that is why using our values is super important. Most of us have some values about honesty, and some values about helping and not shaming our partner - balancing those values is very tricky and very personal. I wish I had an answer for "how much truth is helpful and how much is harmful," but I don't know that can be answered. For me, although I am frustrated by the shame-barrier that comes between my husband and me, I also know that it was damaging my long-term respect for my husband, to allow him to revisit his addictive highs in front of me. He needed to feel guilt, not shame, for how he had lied, but I couldn't control his feelings, I could only deliver my reality - that showing delight over lying was damaging my respect and he needed to stop. The rest was up to him.

I am tempted to go on about the positive messages that can be coupled with our truth-telling (like, I could have told him that I believed he had other, more useful skills, that he could replace lying with and how much I would like to hear about those) - but I bet there are other partners with better insight to weigh in with.

May you stay unwavering in your commitment to reality, and may you have the patience to remain as compassionate and kind as you need to be, in how you deliver it. I am with you in the struggle.
thebagholder


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2014 12:30 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:47 pm
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This is a very interesting topic, I hope you get a lot of opinions, I'm also very much interested.

I'm pretty much in the same position as you, my H has also just recently committed to recovery even though Dday was almost a year ago. He has been trying for some time now to share some things that went on in his head while acting out and I was utterly shocked to see the amount of self-delusion that was going on. I, like you, had to bluntly say the truth ... as I perceived it. I said some pretty hurtful things but I was dead honest. This is how I see things, it was not meant to hurt him in any way, it was meant to explain to him my perspective, and not as his wife, but as a woman ... as any woman ... I believe a SA needs to hear the truth or at least have another perspective to the mind games he/she plays in their head to make acting out more thrilling. If he feels hurt, that means somewhere deep inside he recognises the truth as the truth, otherwise he wouldn't care. And that is a good thing. After so much blocking out feelings they get to feel the neccessary pain. And they need to deal with it in a healthy way. I remember my H's face glowing when he would share those intimate thoughts related to acting out and the pleasure he got ... after I told him my opinion he changed face ... he looked like his world came crushing down on him, like he lost something forever ... his illusions ... it was painful even for me to see him like this ... I felt for him but I knew he needs the truth like the air he breaths ... and I also need the truth ...

I do not think it is my place to shield him from the truth and from the pain. It is my place not to cause him pain, yes, but I did not cause him this pain. He caused it to himself, I'm just helping him see what he's done to himself and to others ... And that is very much in line with my values and with his own interest towards health. Of course, ideally, he would be able to see these things for himself but it is a process and even though we as partners are not really supposed to interfere much, the reality is that they do not trust anyone but us to a certain extend so they feel more comfortable to share with us and not neccessarily on forums or with the psychologist. So, in some cases we are the only ones that they open up to and from us they have the only opportunity to hear the truth. And this truth can be so powerful that the walls around themselves can start falling down and eventually they can reach out for more help from more people ...

I strongly believe you need to speak the truth. However, you might want to pay extra attention to the manner in which you speak the truth. You could put extra effort in assuring him of your love and support while making it clear it is your duty to speak the truth. Ask him if he wants to be lied to ... Because thinking these things and not telling him would be lying ... And honestly, if my H says he would rather be lied to ... well ... that would say much in terms of ... everything ...

Anyways, I do no believe you can push him to act out. Your actions can give him a pretext for acting out, yes, but if he wants a pretext for that he can use anything, not just you telling him the truth. I liberated myself long ago from feeling guilty in any way in that respect. I do not believe that my actions can push him to act out or help him not to. I've realised that when someone told me in early times after Dday that I should not refrain from having sex because he would sleep around even more and I said WHAT??? Like it made any difference that we were having daily sex while he was busy soliciting ... If he wants to use you as a pretext he will, no matter how good or bad you make him feel.

I do not know what else to say except that we are all unique even though so much alike

Best of health to both of you!

_________________
"A wholehearted attention feels like the nurturing presence that I always wished I had in a parent. Now I am free to be there for myself in a way that I assumed I needed from someone else." Tara Bennett-Goleman, Emotional Alchemy


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2014 4:33 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:49 pm
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So to me it seems like you're asking what would be helpful to them. And so I'm going to answer it from that perspective specifically. I'm not addressing here honesty regarding how his actions impacted you, or statements you make about your needs. That's a completely different topic.

At least in my experience, some of those comments are conclusions that my husband needed to come to on his own. Being forced to see the amount of damage that he caused with various behaviors was very stressful for him and, at times, backfired. Realizing how much damage he did caused an incredible amount of anxiety that he didn't know how to cope with yet. Also, it occurs to me that you were comparing his behaviors with your own values system (what would feel most violating to you), and he needs to learn to compare his behavior with his OWN values system. So the way you're presenting this information may not actually be the most effective at what you're trying to accomplish.

I think it's very important to speak your own reality regarding things that directly affect you. So if you're having a discussion about how him groping you, or speaking disrespectfully to you influenced you, that's the time when you need to be 100% honest. Don't back down on your boundaries there. When it comes to how his behavior influences others, and how it influences himself; I think those times call for a little more restraint. It's his recovery, these are his discoveries to make. How he thinks about those things will influence the way you interact with him, and your perspective on where he's at in his own recovery, but it's not your job to make sure he recognizes his own denial. So if he says, "the way you talk about that is making things more difficult", take that at face value and respect his approach to his own recovery. If you want me to be more specific let me know and I'll try to clarify. Hope that helps!
Mrs. Jones


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2014 5:57 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:07 pm
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Location: UK
Hello RTC
great question and thanks for throwing it open to we on the dark side

Quote:
how much honest feedback do I give at this very early, vulnerable stage?

IMO there are no degrees of honesty and that is coming from a recovering addict who was dishonest for around 50 years
we addicts lie , we minimise, we deny , we delude, we all make excuses and believe that we are not really as bad as all that

well we are
even in my state of recovery I cannot deny what I did caused immense pain
Addicts need to accept responsibility for our past , present and future

I will be forever grateful to my ex for exposing me to myself, I probably would never have done it on my own, yes it hurts hearing and accepting the truth but it helps beyond that pain

the second question is slightly more complex

Quote:
Do I keep such observations to myself to allow my partner a safe place to open up so we can build more trust?


would keeping your observations quiet help to build trust - both ways ? IMO NO
does an addict need a safe place?
yes and no
in addiction we have our safe and very unhealthy safe havens , look where that lead us
the RN self help lessons and community is and should be our safe harbour


finally why do you need to build trust, we need to do that by recovery, if we cannot recover then we are no good to ourselves and hence how can we be worthy of your relationships with us

hope the view from the dark side helps if not - trash it

_________________
Remember recovery is more than abstinence
Every transition begins with an ending
Do not confuse happiness with seeking pleasure
stay healthy keep safe
Coach Kenzo


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 1:59 am 
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Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:47 pm
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I kept thinking about this throughout the night ... so ... some more ideas about the topic.

About him trusting you - well, in what way? trust you that you will not be too hard on him? trust you that you will be honest? trust you that you are there for him no matter what he admits to/volunteers? trust you that you won't look down on him? There are different issues about trust ... The only thing I could guarantee my H and thus make it "safe" for him to share is that whatever he shares I will not walk away ... I will stay and fight alongside him but on my side of the street. And that is how much I value the truth and his efforts to come clean about his actions and thoughts (aso knowing truth is an essential component to his recovery). The other thing I can guarantee him is that if he is not honest I will certainly walk at some point when I lost all hope. These are the only guarantees and things that bind me. "How" he finds ways to be honest is his responsability, he cannot blame anything I do or I do not do for not being able to be honest with me. The way I react to the truth can never be an argument not to tell me the truth. If I accept that argument it means I accept taking responsability for his actions ...

When he does share I control my emotions, I do not let them run wild. I kind of know already and I do not let myself get emotional about having things confirmed. I focus on being objective, set aside the way it affects me ... I look at it from his perspective and I try to ask him things that would help him see for himself some details about his addiction and his skewed thinking ... hopefully soon enough he will see it for himself as he is now on RN ... but for the last year or so I was pretty much his only source of reality and I just had to act towards the truth.

I always make a point of "take it or leave it but this is how I see things". Also, I always apologise if even in retrospect I see that I overreacted or I've failed at keeping my emotions at bay, or if I was unfair in any way. I truly apologise ... not just ... by the way, sorry for being such a bitch but you deserve it, anyways ... Not like that. I truly apologise from the bottom of my heart because it's not in line with my values and he knows it and most of the time he gracefully accepts and even comforts me and taking the blame on himself for even causing the whole thing.

Also, I tend to remind him that I do have a choice to walk but I choose to stay. That is a proof of commitment and strength ... it's not just empty words ... so I am reliable and loyal and loving and he cannot deny that, so I am also trustworthy.

So, I think that his trusting you should come from you being fair, objective, reliable, supportive, respectful, treating him fairly, like another human being and that includes being honest with him ... being there for him doesn't mean you need to pamper him like he were a child too frail to hear the truth ... it means having the strength to deal with these things, having the strength to stare them in the face, having the strength to know the darkness in his mind, having the strength to accept and still love him as he is. Both of you must accept who he is, not only you. He must also know and accept. Therefore, the truth must prevail always between you. Just be aware if he exhibits signs of depression or self-harm. If that's the case refer him to a specialist and get a second opinion about the real risk of hurting himself. In that situation you should be advised also as to what issues might be off table for discussion until he is more stable. Unfortunately, at this stage they often confuse speaking the the truth with putting him down and it doesn't help if they are emotionally so instable.

They must also accept us as we are. They must accept the nagging or the overreacting or the crying, or the bitching or the venting or us speaking the truth ... This is who we are in this particular situation. It matters too little that they put us there. Here we are and this is who we are. They must also accept and love us as we are, with what they perceive to be our qualities and our defects. Also, my H's sharing is so much more meaningful because he knows that by sharing he runs the risk of hearing what he doesn't want or like to hear. But when he does it, well, it is so much more than just pleasing me. It is for himself and he knows it now, I hope. When he faces those negative emotions of exposing himself knowing I will probably say something that he will not like ... he is doing it for himself because he sees meaning and value in it, not because he knows I will be supportive in his delusions and make it easy for him by keeping quiet. That takes courage. He is building it up by practising, by seeing that it doesn't kill him and it's not so scary as he thought.

I think it all boils down, as always, to his commitment to his recovery. If deep down he admits he has a problem and he wants to put a stop to it he will find value in hearing and coping with the truth. If it's not for real, well, he will keep accusing you for seeing things the way you do. Thinking about it, my H always criticised the manner I used to put my truth accross, not the fact that I was putting it ... So, I tried to get better at it but it proves to be very hard to show compassion when I'm supposed to detach emotionally so I can accept the things he is sharing ... So I do not know if I got better or he got used to it ... the shock waned on both sides ... my shock to his real self, his shock at me after Dday ... so we are coping, we are both adapting to this new reality by facing it ... the truth guides us.

_________________
"A wholehearted attention feels like the nurturing presence that I always wished I had in a parent. Now I am free to be there for myself in a way that I assumed I needed from someone else." Tara Bennett-Goleman, Emotional Alchemy


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:26 am 
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Thank you so much for all your thoughtful insights. thebagholder, thanks for the reminder to always turn back to my own values, not just of honesty but of respect. I think that will help me going forward to understand WHY I'm giving him the feedback I am. I want to make sure it's not to rub his face in it, and there is always the potential for that. Ursula, drawing attention to HOW I give the feedback is also helpful. I think a tone of compassion is crucial here. My partner asked me to tell him "That's not how I see it" and if he wants to know how I see it, he will ask me. I think that's fair.

Ultimately, I was weighing what Mrs. Jones said--which to me comes down to speaking truth about my own values and what's affecting me, but holding back on judging how his comments and actions affect others based on MY values--and what Kenzo said, which to me comes down to calling it like I see it according to my values, no matter how hard it is on my partner or whether he has the tools to cope.

So much to process, but in the end it has come down to my personal experience of recovery, which I'd like to share.

In the aftermath discussion, my partner and I just realized (well, he realized what I already had) that whenever I "call it like I see it," I am serving to pull back the curtain on his rationalizations of his actions. This is based on MY values, of course, but in most cases (all?), having been with my partner for 20 years, deep down I know they are his values, too. Irregardless of whose values they are, we both came to the realization that whenever the curtain pulls back, he gets really angry, which is followed maybe a day later by him reaching a new level of insight and a calm that comes with it. It was an aha moment for him to make the connection between his anger/what triggers his anger and his skewed thinking.

In fact, whenever I've tried to soften the blow or worse, when I've tried to avoid calling it an addiction because of my own fear of the term, it has allowed my partner to continue status quo. The only times I've seen any progress and honest introspection in my partner is when I make clear, hard-to-say and hard-to-hear statements. You have a sexual addiction. Porn is an addiction. You lied to me. You lied to the therapist. Omission is lying. Incidentally, or perhaps not so incidentally, making such direct statements is healing for me, too, because since DDay a year ago, I have not been able to reconcile my beautiful, smart, loving husband with someone who has a sexual addiction, and haven't even been able to admit those realities to myself. Wow is that difficult.

Moving forward, I will continue to offer "That's not how I see it" observations, try to stay focused on the WHY and HOW I am pulling back the curtain, and remind my partner how his anger has given him new insight in the past into what rationalizations he still holding onto.

Also, in the past, I have walked on eggshells and done whatever I can not to provoke his anger, especially because my father could get scary angry, so it's a real fear for me. I am now at a point, after understanding SA a little more, where I am not afraid of his anger. This is reaching a new level of insight and healing for me, too.

Thanks again for putting so much thought and time into your responses.

I am writing this early in the morning. How significant that, literally and figuratively, the sun has just at this moment come up over the mountain.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 4:01 am 
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Quote:
He said that I made him feel worse instead of better to think that he's a bad person or that I see him as that bad of a person. While he was in a good, optimistic place starting RN, he now feels bad and less like opening up to me, which is not constructive to his recovery. He wants to be able to open up without me judging him.
Sounds so familiar. My H had a very difficult time telling me anything about his choices because he didn't want me to think of him as a bad person. A year into his recovery process, I ran across a T shirt he got at a 3 day outdoor concert he attended without me years before - a work related thing. I suddenly connected "old dots" that I had questioned but then let go. I calmly asked him, "What about Reggae?" He knew exactly what I was talking about and confessed to how he had manipulated me so he could attend the concert without me and how he down-played it when he returned home. I asked if there were similar events and manipulations, and he told me about them as well. When I asked why he had omitted them in his disclosure list, the answer was simply, "I didn't want you to know how bad I was." It was strange for me to hear this because from my perspective, he had done much worse things....I had figured most of them out early on and he was basically caught. Once, when he did confess to a particularly hurtful well planned deception, he was shocked at my reaction. We had just had a heavy duty counseling session during which newly discovered deceptions were aired, and our counselor had asked if there was anything else....he said, "no." Then he showed up at my gallery two hours later, sat on the floor and confessed to an on-going relationship with a young woman and how he had sent me on a trip so he was free to invite her to pose for him at his studio. It was the way he sat on the floor like a little boy expecting to get a pat on the head for telling the truth - that totally tipped me over. I asked him to leave and go home and pack. I made an emergency appointment with our counselor but I was, nonetheless, done with him at that moment. I think I scared him to death. He realized, maybe for the first time, that he was not safe, our marriage was not safe, and that he had to face the consequences of his choices. Tough, I know. Our counselor told me not to expect any security from him. He was undone, but it was his job to put himself back together. I followed her advice. He was a mess for several months but worked through it and found his own counselor, and started RN - so did I.

I share this with you because I feel it's very hard for us to hear about their rituals, their choices, their skewed perceptions and not react. And when it continues to sound like more of the same....well, we begin to wonder when they will be honest with themselves and with us. My H would sometimes say that he wasn't as bad as some of the others on the recovery side or at the meeting he attended. For me, that wasn't the point. His choices derailed our marriage. I wasn't comparing him or judging him, but I was disturbed by what I learned about his secret life, and I was disturbed by his on-going inability to be open and honest without rationalizing. However, when I discovered the old T shirt, I didn't over react as I once would have done. I was calm. I listened. I learned that I was still dealing with a frightened child to some extent. I didn't let that tip me over but realized that he had a ways to go.

Hope this helps.
Nellie James


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 8:36 am 
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nellie james wrote:
My H had a very difficult time telling me anything about his choices because he didn't want me to think of him as a bad person.


My husband got really stuck in this. For a while, every time I brought up something negative he would get very angry at me for believing that he was "a bad person" and for "putting him in a box." For a long time he was completely incapable of separating his own behavior from his value as a person. He couldn't think of himself as a person who had done bad things - he was either a "good" person OR a "bad" person. For several years in almost every argument we had, he would at some point say, "You just won't be happy until I admit that I'm a terrible person and husband." It was very black and white for him. It made it almost impossible to discuss the actions because he was so caught up in what it meant about him as a whole person.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 10:41 am 
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It is that all or nothing black and white thinking that goes hand-in-hand with addiction. My husband eventually learned that he put himself in a box that was fear based. He was afraid to face his fears, his anger, or any real emotion. He worked with a counselor for a year or more along with doing RN. I know that it was hard painful work for him. To this day, he has a hard time with open communication. He says it's who he is. Moan. Old patterns hang on for a long time. And it doesn't just apply to me, it's anything hard. I accept it for what it is to an extent. I still need to be heard from time to time and do my best to clearly communicate my concerns, my feelings so there is no wiggle room. He is still a master at twisting words and choosing to misunderstand - very passive aggressive.

So....we make peace, or not, with those behaviors that continue on....

Nellie


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