Two days ago we had a big trigger, and I thought I'd share my honest reaction to it here. I found the trigger to be a good moment to focus on in reference to the discussions my fWH and I have about remorse and responsibility. It was also helpful to me after our conversation to get a renewed understanding for the shame and guilt he feels during triggers.
So, our two boys were playing with playdough with us and we were having a great time. Somehow the conversation looped 'round to how they started loving playdough. My fWH had brought home some homemade playdough from 'a lady at work' almost two years ago, and I flashed on that immediately and just spontaneously asked "who sent that playdough for the boys." He looked down and said her name. It was like a sword entered my side and twisted. It hurt so bad, I immediately tried to figure out what to do to manage this the right way.
Firstly, I think that is the first time either of us said her name in front of the boys, and I quickly said, "please don't ever say that name in front of our children." To which he continued looking down and nodded his head yes.
Then I thought about what my H said about our arguments; that he can't process what I say when he feels like I'm talking at him and not to him. I see some truth in that when I just let the stream of consciousness flow from me in the moment, so I got my journal and wrote my reaction to the trigger before I addressed it with my H. As I wrote, my H continued on to talk about the playdough and what was happening at the moment. I got up, found the containers that the playdough had come in (from her) and threw them in the garbage, then wrote this;
"Here is the point I have not been able to communicate well yet - this is the exact point where I hope to see or hear remorse or apology or empathy from H. I feel guilt from him, but I am guessing at that. I also guess that he could even be a little pissed off that I would ask, that we have to be brought down by this again when we were having such fun with our boys. I think I got the best I have ever gotten from H; which seems to be him ignoring it but being very nice and perky while he does the ignoring. That's the stuff that worries me, that makes me feel alone with my pain, and unsure if H is sorry at all. If anything, my imagination tells me that he could feel bad for the OW - that he may see this trigger as her having tried to do something nice and me being a bitch. I think about when I asked him why that person made playdough for our kids, and (at the time) he said something about her making some for her grandkids and sending the extra home for us. That overt lie is right in front of me as I trigger. Then my imagination goes to him returning to work at that time, to the OW, and her asking how the boys liked her playdough, and my H feeling loving toward her for caring so much for them. I imagine my mother and I playing with that playdough so often back then, not knowing the lies and betrayal they represented. It all makes me feel sick to my stomache. It makes me feel like an absolute idiot all over again. Like a na´ve moron who had no idea that nothing in her marriage was real or true for 2 1/2 years. My H's non-reaction makes me feel alone with these feelings. That makes life feel a bit like a prison, and just incredibly sad."
So, after I wrote this and thought about it, my H asked me to sit on the porch with him while the boys continued to play with the playdough (which is a big deal, they are 2 and 4 and would undoubtedly make a huge mess while we talked - a sacrifice that my OCDish husband is not quick to make). He said, ok, what's going on. So I told him that I was trying to find a way not to 'talk at him' while still addressing my concerns.
It went very well. I read him my entry, and he was able to tell me that all of those assumptions were not correct. As soon as the trigger happened, he said he was overcome with shame. He said he thought immediately, 'how could I bring that into this house, how could I be so hurtful.' He said he felt like shit. We talked about how difficult it is for both of us to deal with these triggers when the 'dealing with' part almost always seems to involve hurting the other partner.
However, we learned that no matter what pain comes up when we deal with it, the long-term pain is significantly lessened. I didn't live in the pain! I was surprised to find that my mind could recover, that I felt loved by my H and like we were in this R together.
It's this fear that I'm not loved the right way that still gets me. I'm afraid that he sees the love he found with her as the real thing, and our M as the 'work' and 'sacrifice' he has to make. He assures me all the time that this is not the case, but that requires me to believe him. Which as much as I want to, I just can't let myself rely on any of his words. It's quite a catch-22; the only way to move forward is to communicate and listen, but the only solution is to hear the words of the worst liar I have ever known. I know that he is a different person now than he was 8 months ago, but I feel like I still need to acknowledge the possibility that he lies in order to protect myself.
Blargh! Seriously, this shit is so hard. Someone on SI said before that they stay with the process of R so that they can continue to work on themselves. I like that. I like who I am becoming, and if I left this M I have no doubt that I would not do as much intense self-reflection and change ever again in my life. When I feel like this is all too hard, I think about how much I like who I am now - and that's enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other.