I’m in the Denver airport, on a layover, awaiting my next flight to get home. I’m kind of sad to be going home. I don’t hate my life by any means, but being surrounded by fellow WoPAs—beautiful, strong women who understand me, who are open, and who know most of the deep, dark, personal secrets about each other, which creates an amazing bond of love and friendship—was incredible. Every single one of them, and you, are incredible. I admire all of the new friends I made (and old friends I actually met in real live person!!). Being a part of it reminded me that I, too, am incredible. It's an amazing feeling to be part of such a powerful group of women.
The Togetherness Project was beautiful. There is no other way to describe it. It was a gathering of 160 women in all walks of life, who have suffered various degrees of trauma due to someone they love having a sex-addiction. I felt secure and loved there. I felt strength, kindness, and compassion there. I’m so grateful to have been a part of it, and I can’t wait until the next event so I can be surrounded by all of that again.
I learned so much, but my experience was mainly full of validation and hope. I gained answers to things I have been praying about. I gained tools to help my recovery. I gained validation in the things I have struggled with and realized on an even bigger scale that I am not alone. I am not crazy. These things I feel and experience are all over the place. I think there are so many women who are hiding because they think they are alone. Or maybe they are ashamed or afraid to own what is going on in their lives. I have felt that: I married a sex-addict. Oops. He fantasizes about having sex with other women. He lusts after women on a BIG level. It’s not what was in my plan, and I have felt that shame of not wanting to admit to anyone that I screwed up and married a porn addict (Disclaimer: I didn’t screw up. This was out of my control. Also, I do love him, and he is really a fantastic guy). Maybe women are hiding because their husbands have manipulated and shamed them so much that they don’t think their stories will be taken seriously. I have felt that too on some levels, although that type of shame was more from myself through fears of being judged and comparing myself to others.
This weekend, I learned to take myself--my needs, my wants, my fears, my emotions, my healing--seriously.
I also learned more about my own trauma. I admitted more things to myself. I reflected back on memories I had blocked out. I pondered on my life and things going on right now. I found answers. I found paths. I made discoveries and plans. I have goals. I have vision. I have hope.
The past few weeks have been really hard. After my husband’s last dive into his addiction (which started on my birthday), I started shutting down. First, I pushed it away. I ignored it because of the crazy busyness that has taken over my life. I shoved emotions back because I didn’t want them to carry over to work and mess things up there. I started hiding behind my work. I started becoming fearful of going home and being with my husband. After some time, I realized what I was doing and tried to own my emotions. I talked friends. I cried. I wrote.
I felt guilt and shame. I felt guilty because I, for some reason, felt like since a couple of weeks had passed and he hadn’t relapsed in that time, I owed it to him to not be in pain. If he wasn’t relapsing, I shouldn’t show my pain. I should forgive and forget, be happy and loving, be kissy and huggy, and want sex.
Um, excuse me? That’s not the way it works. I tried to force myself to have sex (no, he did not try to force me) because I thought, “Well, he must feel like he earned it, and I want him to be happy,” and I wanted to reward him for his efforts for the past two weeks. No, we did not have sex that night I tried to force myself into it. I realized I couldn’t. I could NOT. It made me sick, and his touch made me feel pain.
I felt the shame (and guilt) because of a lack of love I was feeling for my husband. I had a mini-crisis because of that, actually. It terrified me, and I was ashamed of my feelings for him.
A few days before I left for the conference, I realized I needed some space. I needed to take time for me and just heal. For the past two and a half years, I have been strong. Yes, I have had angry episodes that have made us both a little afraid of me. But I’ve always, always, tried to be strong. I’ve been strong for him because I didn’t want to trigger him. I’ve been strong for him because I wanted to help him. I’ve been strong for him because I wanted to do everything I could to make things work. I’ve been strong for me because I was afraid of what might happen if I was not strong. I haven’t allowed myself to feel and heal. I haven’t allowed myself to really dwell in the sad and get the space I need for my health. And I’m not talking in-house separation or anything. I’m talking simple space. Space where I don’t feel pressured (from either him or myself) to kiss/hug/cuddle/have sex. Space where I don’t feel pressured to say I love you. I’m just talking about gaining trust and having the space I need to observe, heal, and trust. And guess what? The Togetherness Project validated that need for space to heal.
I mean, seriously. He has broken my heart. Many times. It’s only natural to need time to repair. I don’t want a divorce. I just want to recover. I want to do things for me. Yes, we are a team. And together, we can help me heal. Together, we can help him heal. We both need space to heal.
I wrote in my journal for an hour on my way to the Togetherness Project. I poured out my heart and wrote about what I wanted to gain from this conference. I prayed. I found inner peace.
While at the conference, my prayers were answered. Answers to my questions were found. Plans and goals were made. I found me. I found what I need to heal. I found friends. I found strength and power in numbers. I found how good it feels to truly be open. I learned about vulnerability, boundaries, love, and bravery.
Being brave has been my mantra this year. I gained strength and learned from other brave women at the Togetherness Project. I’m going to be brave. I can’t tell you what my plans are yet, but you will find out eventually. My first step to being brave is to open up to more people. I could write a whole post about being open about our real lives. Maybe I will. So many people hide behind facades, and I hate it. I hate that our world expects everyone to just be hunky-dory. I hate it when people ask me how I’m doing but don’t really mean it. Yes, that is definitely another post for different day.
I feel good. I feel peace with where I am right now. I’m excited for him to pick me up from the airport so we can start talking about all of the stuff I learned and want to do.