We've been married 26 years today. 11 years since our vow renewal, when our life together truly began.
I was looking at pictures today. I have a picture of the day we met. JM's sister and I shared a babysitter. Her DD is about 6 months younger than my older DS. It was my (now) niece's birthday party. (now) SIL had been trying to introduce me to her brother. But he was/is 7 1/2 years younger than me. He had just turned 22. I was pushing 30 and had a child. I couldn't imagine us having anything in common. But he took a weekend pass from his USMC assignment to come home for his niece's birthday party. And he was so attentive to her. That got my attention. His sister had us both over for dinner 2 weeks later and that was all she wrote, lol.
We've been through some horrible times, some self-inflicted and some that were beyond our control. My addiction caused much damage. His PTSD and selfishness caused damage as well. Neither of us had any boundaries, and that caused the most damage of all. We both had EAs and online/sexting As. We rugswept so hard Stanley Steemer should've used us in commercials. So of course, it all led up to December 2010, the beginning of our Annus Horribilus.
I shared in General about my childhood and FOO stuff. I am grateful that I found sobriety and was on my way to emotional health before 2011 happened. I'd built almost 3 years of sobriety and had a strong relationship with my IC. I was strong enough to draw my line in the sand, finally. But I still hadn't found SI.
He left and moved into an apartment shortly after DDay 1. After about 6 months he was tired of that "wild single life" he'd wanted so bad. He begged, literally begged on his knees to come home. I said yes and we had what I called his amnesty conversation. I told him I needed to know all of the truth. There was nothing he could tell me at that time that would make me change my mind. Well, most of you know how THAT turned out. Within 2 months, everything finally exploded as the truth of his A came out. It was a hundred times worse than the worst thing I'd imagined. I was DONE. So done. He threatened suicide and got himself a week's stay at the Psychiatric Hilton. I refused to let him come home. Packed up his crap and moved it to the garage. There was a day or so when he was going to be driven to a men's homeless shelter at discharge because his parents initially refused for him to stay there.
That was also when I found SI.
And this is where I want to say that there is hope, even in what seems to be the worst infidelity story. Serial cheating, mad hatters, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, PTSD. We shouldn't have made it. But the day he was released from the nuthouse, JM began his quest for spiritual, mental and emotional health. He figured out on his own how to make an IC appointment and keep it. He did things to help me even when I didn't ask him or thank him. (Things like yard work, car maintenance, etc). I had taken the album of our wedding pictures and torn it apart, throwing all of the pages into our front yard. I'll never forget seeing him with a trash bag out front, picking all the ruined photos up, looking at each one before throwing it away. (Part of me was gleeful that I could see pain on his face). My faith is profoundly important to me and had been one of the issues that pulled us apart, because he didn't want any part of it. But during our final S, he started going to church to try to figure it all out. He didn't come to the church our boys and I attended. I had no idea he was going anywhere.
Then he showed up one Sunday when the praise team (which DS and I were part of) had a music service. And he came forward at the invitation (which is a big thing, especially in Southern Baptist churches). I'd seen fake emotional responses before. He'd done a few of them. But there was no mistaking on that day. He was different. He even seemed physically different somehow. It still took me a couple of months after that before I let him move back in and we renewed our vows. He was willing to do whatever I required, and came up with some things on his own. We started MC together then.
There was still one more bump in the road for us, about 6 months after our vow renewal. I discovered he'd broken NC several times. I was devastated and furious. I'd said broken NC would be a deal breaker, but when it happened, I didn't want to be done. I felt so pathetic.
Here's where I want to share hope again. A very dear lady from SI (PainPainGoAway, for the old timers) drove over an hour to take me out to lunch. She let me cry and vent and rant and she just hugged me and told me I'd be okay no matter what path I chose. I needed that so badly. I decided to give him another chance. He joined SI and posted on the Wayward forum. He asked for advice and listened. AuthenticNow, FloridaRedMan, Fallen, Aubrie.. they will never know what a difference they made for us.
I cannot believe the life that we have now. We still have struggles. His PTSD, both of our bodies are falling apart, lol. But we are in it all together. We love each other, respect each other, appreciate each other.
If you are new at this and struggling to find hope, we are proof that R can happen, even in the worst situations. Please don't misunderstand me. R does not always happen, nor should it. If both partners are not all-in, you're not in R. You're in false R or limbo at best, and that shit will kill you.
To increase the odds of success:
First of all, know your worth. And settle for nothing less. In the wake of betrayal, our self esteem takes a monumental hit. It is so important to find yourself, get your emotional balance, and realize you don't have to stay in that place.
Second, and this flows from #1, don't do the Pick Me dance. It sucks. It's not fun, nor is it ever effective in establishing a healthy R.
Third, don't rugsweep. This is the time to hold everything under scrutiny. Every time you allow a conversation to be squashed because the WS doesn't want to talk, or thinks you've had long enough to heal, or thinks s/he is protecting you, or whatever other bullshit reason they give, you are teaching them what you will accept. Eventually so much time has gone by that you just resign yourself to never having those conversations. And that is your ticket to The Next Time. And there will always be a Next Time if you don't deal with This Time.
Fourth, establish your boundaries and dealbreakers, but allow yourself room to change your mind. I know for both JM and myself change did not come immediately nor easily. It took me almost a year into sobriety before I quit lying. Because of that, I knew that there were some patterns ingrained in JM that he would have difficulty overcoming. I am so thankful that I hung in there after the broken NC.
I'm sure there are a million other little things but those are my big 4.
I stay at SI because I firmly believe JM and I would not be together today if I hadn't been sent here by a friend. I can never repay the people who were here and helped me, but I keep the cycle going. MangledHeart, thank you so much for taking the chance on DS and for the work that you two put into SI. She remains so dear to my heart. I sure hope I get to meet her in heaven and give her a thousand years worth of hugs.
W2BHA, this is for you. It's a novel, so it may push the Positive Stories thread to a new page all by itself.