Things we don’t say

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Why are we our own worst enemies? Why do we act in a way that brings the opposite reaction of what we really want from the people we love? How do we change our actions, change our automatic way of responding? How do we put our pride aside to stop thinking about ourselves and work harder to think about what others need from you? Today I need to put my own issues aside to make sure that my husband knows that I love him, even if that hasn’t been showing through so much lately.

It’s that time of month …

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There are days, like today, when I wish that men had to experience what women go through, just once in their lives.  Maybe then they wouldn’t be so quick to judge.  

Today I’m completely identifying with the episode of “Modern Family” that aired this week (http://www.hulu.com/watch/334448/modern-family-leap-day).  I wish my husband watched this show so that he would have some small idea of what he’s dealing with, and what he’s not dealing with.  For one thing, he’s a fairly lucky guy.  I haven’t had a regular “monthly cycle” for several years, so this doesn’t happen 12 times a year.  On the other hand, when it does hit, it hits hard.  I don’t know which way I’m going, my emotions are tugging me all over the place, and I just want to curl up on the bed/couch/any soft place and try to get comfortable.  I don’t want to have to deal with the noisy, obnoxious children who know just the right fights to pick with each other to drive me insane.

I realized today that my husband’s calm, soothing voice really does the exact opposite.  What he intends to be helpful, drives me completely up a wall.  It grates on every exposed nerve ending, and makes me want to tear my hair out.  Pretty strong reaction to something that is trying to be gentle, right?  So how can a hormonal, crazy bitch woman explain that to her hapless and unfortunately gender-disabled husband?  I guess you could go my route of the morning and nearly scream with frustration.  Hopefully, though, a little time out has given me some needed equilibrium, and I’ll be able to handle the rest of the day as a human being, not a hormonal harpy!  Wish me luck!

Such a profound thought, and something I’m aspiring to right now. Pre-spring cleaning both at home, and in my marriage.

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I’ve spent this past week de-cluttering my home.  I tend to live simply and yet, I’ve been amazed at how many papers, articles of clothing and other unused items have been taking up space in my home and in my life.  Since clearing the unused out of my life, I realized I hadn’t even been aware of the impact it had on me.  The little messes were making my home look unattractive and feel chaotic.  It was weighing on me because I felt bad letting it build and knew I couldn’t keep putting off cleaning it forever.   It was taking up space and energy that I could have used more effectively and I feel so much lighter having assessed what I really want in  my life and letting the rest go.

It is important to de-clutter our relationships from time to time too.  Emotions can build up in a relationship.  We can clutter up our relationship with feelings…

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2 sweet + 2 be = 4 gotten

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I’m a loner.  I don’t want to be, I never intended to be, it’s what I’ve fallen into.  I’ve always been shy, but usually had a couple close friends around.  Small schools meant that I never really had to try very hard to “put myself out there”.  I could usually fall into friendships.  

In our last city of residence, we were there for 9 years, and it took me nearly that long to feel comfortable and as if I had friends to call on.  Being a part of our local church and having kids to hang out with other families helped with any isolation.

We’ve lived in our current location for about 18 months.  Here, I’m the mom you see on the edges of a birthday party, not really talking to anyone.  That’s because I don’t know anyone.  It’s not possible to make friends of the other parents in my kids’ schools – both boys who go to school are dropped off in the morning through a car line, and picked up in the afternoon by a car line.  Believe me, I’ve tried mommy groups, but I just don’t seem to have the right spark.  This is also the only time since my teen years that I haven’t had some sort of job.  No longer having the opportunity to meet with people and provide them with help in an area I’d gained years of expertise in is a bit of a downer to my ego.

We as a family don’t fit in to the church we’ve been attending.  There aren’t dozens of our denomination in every town, and for some reason fitting in here has been harder than I remember it being at our last church.  Maybe because we need the community feeling so much more, we notice the lack even more.  We have considered going to other churches, but having been raised in this denomination, even when we don’t agree with it 100%, that’s the cultural paradigm that we’re most familiar with.

Even in my own family, I’m the odd woman out.  I’m the non-sport loving, girly-girl mother of three boys.  I will forever be on the fringes of my own family.  My interests are not shared by anyone else in the household, and I tend to feel marginalized – sort of like Cinderella who’s expected to do all the cooking, cleaning, etc.

So, based on all of this background, is it any surprise that I tend to lean on my husband for my emotional well-being?  I know it’s not ideal, I know that it goes contrary to what all mental health professionals say is a healthy relationship, but I’m at that “rock and hard place” spot.  I’ve tried for friendships and validation elsewhere, but have come up short for many months now.

Over the Christmas holiday, we took a family vacation.  Part of the time was visiting the Big Mouse (5 to a hotel room), the other part visiting hubby’s relatives.  During all that time, any sort of intimacy, whether emotional or physical, was pretty much nonexistent.  Since coming home, I’ve desperately needed to refill my emotional intimacy levels (especially with 3 boys still on school break), and come up short.  My husband even mentioned this morning that he knows I’ve been willing to be there for physical intimacy for him, but he has dropped the ball on providing the emotional intimacy that he knows I need.  

So how is it that an isolated person can fulfill their emotional needs without having to rely solely on one person?  How does an adult woman make a true friend?  How can I erase this feeling of being forgotten?

Heigh ho, heigh ho …..

It’s a lot of responsibility to be solely responsible for my husband’s sexual pleasure/release.  Maybe for some people that wouldn’t be an issue.  I have to admit that through most of our marriage, I have thought (though sometimes not really fully formed the thought) that it didn’t matter if I wasn’t really into sex very often – he’d just end up going and looking at some sort of pictures and find his own release later.  Whether I was fully cognizant of the thought at the time, I know now that I was really thinking that in the back of my mind.  By tacitly accepting the use of porn by my husband, I was enabling it.

But now, I’m asking, even demanding of him, that all of his sexual thoughts, desires, actions, etc. go through me.  And honestly, I’m not really sure how well it’s going to go.  For the vast majority of our marriage, I’ve been fairly disinterested in sex.  I love cuddling, and I have to admit to loving the fact that I can easily get him hot and bothered (hmm, some sort of power trip), but sticking with the moment until I actually get hot and bothered myself most times has just been either too long, or more work than I was willing to do.  And in the past couple months since the “ultimatum”, I’ve had so many self-image issues that it can be very hard to just let go of the thoughts in my head and allow myself to feel.  

Adding on to my personal issues are the issues of being a parent – it’s not easy to find couple time when there are three kids running around the house, always needing something from us.  (The kids are not quite at the point where a closed door means they should come back later.  It just means they should bang on it until they get what they want.)  At the end of the day, my energy has been depleted for quite some time, and there are still things that need to be done before I can consider relaxing.  

I’ve always resisted the idea of scheduling sex, but maybe that is the answer.  My husband would know a specific time that he would get his needs met, and I could gear up and mentally prepare so that I’m in the right frame of mind.  I’m just fairly certain that like most scheduled things in this house, it would end up going by the wayside the first time a scheduling conflict came up.  

So, here I am trying to figure out how to satisfy my husband, partly in order to keep him on the straight and narrow, and partly to keep the intimacy in our marriage.  I know it’s an enviable position to some, but it’s a predicament for me!  So, I guess it’s slogging off to the sex mines for me.

You marry the whole family

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Is there anything harder on a marriage than in-laws?  I’m about to have to be subjected to mine for the holiday, and I’m dreading it.  I dread every trip “over the river & through the woods”, even though my kids think its the most wonderful thing of all.  This is probably one of the biggest obstacles in my marriage.  I end up blaming (either with or without good cause) my mother-in-law for just about any flaw that my husband has.  Granted, there are issues that can be laid at her feet, and she can be overwhelming/overbearing with the best of them, but she’s not all bad.

At this time of year, my biggest wish is to be protected from her.  I need my husband to man-up and tell her that no, whatever outrageous plan she’s concocted won’t be happening because it’s not good for our family, or no, we can’t keep the kids out until midnight because she wants to do some special thing, or …. The list could go on for days.  So many times I think he gives in because it gets very tiring to constantly tell her no (she comes up with so many “wonderful” ideas a day, the rejections tend to come fast and furious).  I end up being the bad cop in the scenario, which does nothing to help our tenuous relationship (even after 16+ years in her son’s life).

I think so much of my conflict with her the past few years stems from the fact that I miss my own mother.  It’s something that I try not to dwell on very often because I tend to go on a crying jag, but was reminded very vividly last night of how much I miss her and how much she’s missing.  On the way home in the car, my oldest son was describing his only memory of his grandma.  He wasn’t quite 3 when she died, and he’s the only one of my children that my mom ever got to see.  Telling him how much she loved him and was so excited about him brought sorrow to the forefront again.  At the holidays.  As I’m about to see the antithesis of her – my mother-in-law.

I keep wishing and half expecting my mother-in-law to somehow take on characteristics of my own mother.  Or at least try in some way to fill the void for me.  I know it’s crazy, and even in the rare times when we’re having a really good relationship and I tell her that I wish she would fill some of that void for me, I know it will never happen.  So, I need my husband’s protection from her crazy plans and schemes, especially when it comes to my kids.

So, am I the only person with a super crazy MIL?

Standing up for myself

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It’s been several weeks since I last wrote, and probably a large part of that was because I received a snotty comment from a reader (male) that questioned why I was even bothering to write.  Obviously, he feels some need to tear other people down rather than support.  I’m writing this 1) as my own “therapy journal” to help put words to some of my feelings, and 2) as a help to someone else who might happen upon it and think “there are other people out there who are going through the same thing I am.”  Several weeks ago when I was desperately looking for something myself, I couldn’t seem to find others in the same boat.  If there are any readers who need a support community, I’d be happy to help.

Which brings me to a “maintenance” issue:  Comments are enabled, but I’ve decided that I will not be making them public.  Anything that is said to me about a post will remain private.

So, back to the typical writing….

It’s been an up-and-down several weeks.  One other reason that I didn’t write was that I wasn’t sure that whatever I felt like saying was something that I wanted my husband to read.  Yes, he reads my blog.  In some instances, it’s a helpful thing.  I’m more able to articulate my thoughts through the written word, and he gets a peek into my brain without having to wait through my long pauses, or emotional breakdowns.  There have been good days in the past weeks, and there have been bad days.  Typical life, right?  I’m not sure if I’ve become demanding of emotional closeness in the last several weeks, but I’ve more easily been able to ascertain when it disappears.  For about 1 1/2 weeks, we were simply existing in the same space without truly connecting.  A couple nights ago, I finally called my husband on it.  After much time denying (after all, he’s a guy, he can’t be wrong, right?), he finally admitted that the distance was probably because he has been struggling with temptation.  Because I had requested not to be his accountability partner, he assumed that meant that I didn’t want to know about the times that he was struggling.

I’m sure some of the struggle hasn’t been helped by the fact that we were on a trip last weekend and he had to miss his weekly meeting.  He’ll be back to it tonight, and hopefully that will help.  I just wish that I knew what it was that I could do personally to assist during the struggle times.  Knowing about it does help temper some of my responses, but what is there specifically that would help distract, or redirect?  All the books I’ve read don’t seem to deal with that particular issue.  They seem to be of the opinion that a man’s struggle is his own, and he needs to be responsible for it.  Okay, I get that to a certain point.  But I’ve promised, even if only in our wedding vows, to support my husband.  This is something that vitally affects our marriage, our relationship.  It’s imperative that I support him in his quest to be “clean”, but how do I actually go about doing that?  That’s my big question for the moment.

Something that I have learned through my readings the past couple weeks is an understanding of just how much I desperately need the emotional closeness before I’m able to entertain physical intimacy.  I’d never really sat down to think about that before.  So now I’m on a mission to make sure that we have the emotional intimacy I need before there’s the physical intimacy that he needs.  Otherwise, I end up feeling like (for lack of a better term) a prostitute.  Not a wonderful feeling, and one that I really don’t want to repeat.  So, I’m learning to stand up for my emotional needs.  Not always easy for a shrinking violet to do, but I’m learning and growing, and hopefully this will make me stronger.  What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?

What dreams may come

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I had a dream last night.  Maybe it was one dream, maybe it was a couple dreams in sequence.  Doesn’t matter, the subject was all the same.  It went something like this:

There was a fire at our house.  The first time, we were all guided out to safety by my husband.  The second time we were again guided out by him.  Then came the third fire.  At that point, we weren’t in the house, and the kids weren’t around.  My husband and I drove up to the house to find it fully engulfed in flames.  As I looked around, I realized that I didn’t hear any sirens from fire trucks, no neighbors looking around.  No one had noticed that our house was on fire.  I frantically called 9-1-1, and begged for help.  Even as I was on the phone with the dispatcher, I watched as my house collapsed to the foundation.

By morning, the neighbors and friends were out surveying the damage.  Some brought shovels, I guess to help clean up.  I was sitting a ways away watching, thinking “why are they trying to clean up?  The fire inspector hasn’t been here yet.  We don’t know the cause of the fire.”  A friend came up to me and said, “haven’t you heard?  There was accelerant all around the house.  It was arson.  When they realized there was an ex in the picture, they arrested them.”

For me, this dream was such an analogy for how I felt last night.  Last night was an actual date night.  We hadn’t had one in several months, and I was looking forward to spending some less intense time with my husband.  We had a pleasant dinner at a newly opened restaurant featuring one of our favorite types of food (Mediterranean), browsed a couple book stores, and wandered in the outdoor portion of the local mall.  Since we still don’t know this town very well and didn’t know a good place to sit outside to talk, we decided to drive around for a while to talk.  It was during this time that my husband dropped a bomb in my lap and ran.

Okay, maybe not that bad, and the information he dropped on my wasn’t really the big issue to me at the time, it was more the way he said it and then acted afterwards.  My husband didn’t date much before me, he says that he doesn’t remember many dates from high school, but his first year of college he had a very intense relationship that included sex.  There was about a year between the end of his relationship with her and the start of our relationship, but I know that the memories of that time had an impact on him.  For nearly the entire time that I’ve known him, he’s never wanted to hear her name, or even any references to her.  Yes, as a woman insecure about her sexuality I have on a couple occasions asked how I compare (since I personally have no comparisons, but of course needed reassurances), and was always told there was no comparison.  Since we’ve been discussing sex the last several nights in our conversation, I guess she was on his mind, so taking a deep breath, he said that he had something to tell me that he had never wanted to tell me, but felt that I needed to know.  He admitted that he does compare me to her, and sometimes not very favorably, especially when we’re in a sexual drought.  Apparently she was very eager to do whatever he wanted (I’ll really try not to make all the derogatory comments I usually have for her, but I always thought she latched on to him because she thought he would be her meal ticket out of her background), and when I was not as eager to please, apparently he would remember that she was much more willing.

Okay, this news itself is not surprising.  I was somewhat hurt that he had held on to that all these years thinking that I couldn’t handle it.  I mean, I’m no dummy.  Of course there’s going to be mental comparisons.  It’s human nature.  We always try to compare a current experience to a previous one, even if it’s just a trip to the grocery store.  What started my slow burn of anger was that after telling me this and having a minute or two of discussion about it, he asks “how do you feel?” and starts heading for home.  He decided that he needed to get gas right then, rather than driving on for a little while to finish up the conversation.  Of course, I sat and fumed all through the fill-up.  I attempted to tell him how I was feeling on the short drive home, but didn’t feel as if I got anywhere.  We came home feeling fairly disconnected.

We’ve been trying to use the question I mentioned in an earlier post about “what can I do to help you feel loved?”, and he asked that question as we were getting ready for bed.  For my part, what I needed then was for him to ignore the clock that said it was past his bedtime and have a discussion that would put us back on firmer ground.  But something else reared an ugly head – resentment over the fact that I’m still not comfortable getting undressed in front of him.  Which led to some more heated discussion.

We finally made it to having a devotional together, which was on Proverbs 5.  The instructions were to discuss what drew you together, highlights of your relationship.  I was feeling entirely too raw by this point, and didn’t know how I would be able to actually participate in this particular activity.  Because I was so raw, the next act, which normally would have been a very sweet gesture, became yet another salvo fired.  My husband pulled up on his ipod the song that I walked down the aisle to at our wedding.  It wasn’t the typical wedding march song, but an original composition of the musician at our wedding.  Not a song that you typically hear playing over the speakers in the local store and can think “oh, they’re playing our song”.  Hearing it usually is heart-melting to me, because I don’t hear it very much at all.  But as I said, I was so raw, I couldn’t accept it for the reconciliation gesture that it seems to be looking back at it.  More heated discussion followed, after which I stormed out of the bedroom and spent the night on the couch.

You’d think a night on the couch would soften me up, right?  I’d be all ready to work things out and start fresh on the day?  Then you don’t know how stubborn I am.  Instead, I start the day angry that he didn’t come down to ask me to come back to our bed, I’m angry that he talks about how last night and this morning didn’t end up the way he expected them to, and I’m still holding on to resentment based on the dream I had.

So, back to the dream.  It doesn’t take a trained psychoanalyst to interpret that one:  the house is our marriage, the fire is the problems we’re having.  No one is paying attention that we’re having problems, and we’re left to call for help on our own.  The information about the ex just exacerbated issues.  There’s probably more in there, but you get the point.

I don’t want this marriage to completely collapse.  So it’s up to me to make sure my dream doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  So hopefully I will make the choice today to let go of my resentment over the way things were handled last night, and chose to continue to work to rebuild.

Are we compatible?

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The serious conversation of last night (that I refer to in my head as our “joint therapy session”) was all about sex.  You’d think after 13+ years of marriage it wouldn’t be that big a deal to talk about, but you’re not me.  Sex has never been an easy subject, and for many years just wasn’t an easy action either.

Our specific conversation had to do with whether we were sexually compatible.  My husband in his typical male way broke compatibility down to whether or not he received pleasure from our activities (this may be a gross exaggeration of his explanation, but that was what I took away from it).  In his eyes, we’re compatible.  We don’t have one of us requesting an act that the other finds horribly freaky.  We seek to enjoy each other in a responsible, respectful way.  Sounds hot, right?!!

I am self-aware enough to know that deep down, I’m probably a prude.  It was more than likely engrained in me from my childhood.  I barely remember seeing my parents show affection to each other, much less any passion.  And I definitely don’t remember overhearing any passion (I had the bedroom next to theirs with one of those 70’s era closets that connected to their closet).  I don’t know that I ever had a “sex talk” with my mother.  I was given a book (I think it was Preparing for Adolescence by Dr. Dobson), told to read it, and if I had any questions, then come talk to her.  Really, who would come with questions when that’s the environment?  So, most of my sexual knowledge came from cousins, girls at school, and of course, romance novels.  Sounds super healthy, right?  I mean, who wouldn’t know all about sex when learning about it from those sources?!!

While being mainly sheltered in church-based schools, I somehow managed to find times to “make out” with my boyfriends of the time.  It’s impossible to say whether the thrill that I felt was sexually oriented or because our actions could cause major problems for us if we were caught.  My memory might be a little fuzzy, but I do seem to remember being physically excited by my husband during our dating/engagement days, although we were at least technically saving sex for marriage.

Fast forward to our early marriage.  I can’t remember it being any “fun”.  All I remember is pain.  Sex was not pleasurable, it was merely something to be endured until my husband was finished.  I know that we could not have been compatible at that time.

Things got better after our second child, probably (TMI alert) because that child was a vaginal delivery instead of a c-section, and I got stretched.  Sex was no longer painful, and actually started to be pleasurable.  So, the past 4+ years have been better, and I’d think that we were compatible now.

But for my part, I don’t think that merely being mutually pleasurable meets the compatibility standard.  I think that it’s more than just a physical thing.  Here’s where I believe that we’ve been the most un-compatible all these years.  Sex in a marriage is the two of you at your most vulnerable; emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Both of you have to be in the same place (or reasonably close) in all of those areas for the sex to be right.  In looking back, we haven’t been in the same place in all of those areas, and that would probably explain why most of the time I haven’t been all that thrilled with sex.  The more we’re exploring our relationship, the more we’re seeing all the many aspects of our lives the porn addition has touched.  I’m coming to realize that my husband could not have been in the same emotional or spiritual place that I have been.

Now, I’m going to flip all of that on it’s head, because it really doesn’t matter if we’re compatible or not.  This is the man that I chose to marry, and I am continuing to chose to love him and cherish him.  He is telling me and showing me that he is now choosing me, and only me.  I hope that I’m not placing too many expectations on this path of recovery, but if we continue to be in the same place emotionally and spiritually (or at least attempting to be), maybe we’ll find even greater enjoyment in each other.

Confessions of a conflicted Christian?

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From the content and tone of this blog, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I come from a Christian world-view.  I was raised very conservatively (no, don’t go picturing the women all in skirts, that wasn’t my family!), and my husband was raised in a similar fashion.  We both grew up with church, church-school (or parochial school), and parents who encouraged devotions and Bible study.  I might have been a bit more sheltered than he was, seeing as my family didn’t have a tv until I was about 8, and then it was only a very small black & white one.  We didn’t get a color tv until I was 13.  I didn’t go to my first movie in a theater until after I graduated from high school.  Most of the books I read were published by Christian publishing houses.

Because of this background, I know the words, I know the routines, I know what other Christians would tell me in my situation:  pray, Bible study, maybe counsel with your pastor.  Here’s the problem with that advice:  I don’t know how.  In all the years growing up with church practically at the center of my existence, I don’t know how to facilitate a personal relationship with Christ.  At various times over the years, I’ve attempted to figure things out.  I’ve had short periods of time where I thought I might have an idea what people are talking about when they reference their walks with Christ.  But I’ve never figured out how to actually put it into practice on a daily basis for myself.  That’s not to say that I don’t pray, I’ve just never considered my prayers to be all that formal or even focused.  I’m more of a “send random thoughts, petitions, thank you’s up to heaven” type pray-er.

I’ve tried the Bible study thing, but I really don’t do well on my own with it.  And as a busy mother, it’s hard to just pick up a Bible study group, particularly with my personality.  Since this is a very difficult subject for me, I’d have to be extremely comfortable with the others in my group to feel able to share even the smallest thoughts.

And the pastoral counseling thing?  Considering that I’m at a point of extreme disillusionment with the church I attend (due to church politics, lack of true community, and a dearth of actual friendly people) and somewhat disillusioned with the denomination at large, I’m not about to open that can of worms.

So, this post really is about two things:  the current marital crisis over porn, and my lack of supportive friends, or at the moment, any friends.  I know that our marriage needs a true foundation, and we’ve been trying to get in at least a small Bible study and prayer together each evening.  And the lack of comfort in my own spiritual path makes me reluctant to branch out to a different church for the friendship and community that I crave.  How does one go about getting past the surface (I’m really good at surface), and truly start the relationship?  Or is the wish for the relationship purely selfish on my part because I think it will get me to where I want to be?

A few days ago my husband made the comment that everyone holds “a card” close to them, something that they really don’t want other people to know about them.  For him, porn is his “card”.  This is mine.