counseling

What Do i Do Now?

Ok, so i came to the conclusion in my last blog post, Can Trust be Restored?, that i should stay and give Maximus another chance.

i’m still hurt, still angry, still horribly disappointed, confused, lost, disoriented.

Kirshenbaum has another six questions for me to answer. These are the questions i need to answer in order to restore my feeling of trust. There is no timetable for this process, it varies for everyone, but they work as a guide:

  1. How will I ever cope with this?
  2. Does the other person really care about me?
  3. Can the other person really see me and understand how his betrayal hurt me?
  4. Can our relationship survive?
  5. Can we make things safer and better between us?
  6. Can I forgive him?

1. How will i ever cope with this?

It is normal to feel and act crazy–most people encounter an overwhelming sense of insanity when betrayed because someone we trusted to take care of us hurt or abandoned us. Nothing makes sense anymore. However, you are not actually crazy, it is what you are feeling, and it’s part of the natural healing process.

Now is when everyone is expecting the crazy, so you might as well give it to them.

You are coping, this is coping, hang in there. What you feel now is not an indicator of whether or not the relationship is worth healing. Don’t do anything you’ll regret.

If you still have any kind of relationship left by the time you start being a little less crazy, you’re in good shape…If you’re not blown apart, it means there is some glue, some degree of caring, and that makes all the difference here. Believe it or not, the trust-restoring process has begun.

i felt like i lost my mind when Maximus admitted to intentionally, justifiably lying to me about Ms. W. The rage was horrible, exhausting, frightening. i even told Him that i thought i had lost my mind. i truly felt i had lost my mind. This is what confused me about what to do next–if this relationship had gone to such an extreme that i lost my mind, went insane, why on earth would i want to stay in it? Why would i put myself in that position to permanently damage myself?

i eventually calmed down. But i still get swirls of anxiety. Swirls of extreme hurt. Swirls of solutions, things that seem like solutions anyway, that will do nothing but cause more hurt, to both of us. i feel like Odysseus tied to the ship’s mast, agonized by the Sirens’ songs of craziness. When will i get past earshot of the Sirens? Perhaps i am coping by the sheer fact that i have somehow tied myself to the mast, unable to break free and lose my mind.

But i’m also just overwhelmingly sad–and it upsets me that i’m so sad.

2. Does the other person really care for me?

The anger in the aftermath of betrayal is what people expect but find the most difficult to deal with. While anger is a feeling, it’s also a tactic, a way to sort out if the other person really cares about us. If the person who betrayed you can hang in there while you’re furious, they’ve passed the “do-you-care” test–they really do care.

…when you realize that the other person cares about you, however ignorant, confused, and clumsy he may be, then you’ll have the motivation you need to rebuild trust.

This may take weeks to figure out. You’re angry, you want to know why. You will grill them for answers. But the danger is that while anger makes you feel safer, makes the other person scared of you so they’ll never hurt you again, it makes them distance themselves in order to provide for their own feeling of safety. Don’t get into a cycle of anger where you hurt the other person, they hurt back in defense, you retaliate and hurt them more, and on and on and on. This will kill the relationship. The less anger we allow ourselves, the faster healing will happen.

Consider saying this to your partner:

Look, I know this is hard on you too. And I wish I had some kind of timetable or road map that would tell me when my anger will start to die down. But I just don’t know when that will happen. I do know that I want it to happen. I want to find a way to trust you again. And I know you want to be trustworthy. But here’s the thing. When you hurt me, that gave me the message that you don’t care about me. That I wasn’t worth your caring about me. But if you can hang in there with me while I’m still so angry, that will tell me that you do care, and that means everything to me.

Be aware that if you can’t trust each other, don’t trust each other, you’ll be watching every moment for an attack or scary gesture, causing you to bristle and attack. This is a mistrust cycle, where mistrust breeds more mistrust, just as the anger cycle breeds more anger. Break the mistrust cycle by sharing with your partner what you need to feel safe, and allow good things to happen. This lets your partner know that rebuilding trust is possible, that your anger is not infinite, that he can recover from his mistake.

i do believe that Maximus cares for me. i just am having trouble understanding why He did this. i want to be able to trust Him again. i know i am stuck in the mistrust cycle, that i am watching for proof, making Him feel under the microscope. my mistrust risks pushing Him away, which will make me feel more abandoned and give me proof that He’s not trustworthy and doesn’t care. This is a big step for me.

And it’s only been 4 days. i’m certainly not here yet. Kirshenbaum notes that it can take a month to get out of the anger stage, but i don’t think i can handle being there that long. And i don’t think these steps are particularly linear, that you have to complete one stage before going into the next one–i think they overlap, at least they seem to be for me.

So this is where i’m going to stop for today. i have a lot of work to do in these first two steps. i can’t rush this. i, we deserve that i not rush this. Just because the cast on a broken arm is awkward and itchy doesn’t mean it’s ready to come off–you only want it off because it’s unnatural, restricting, bulky and keeps you from doing things you regularly enjoy. You have to go through the healing process in order for things to heal correctly.

Maximus, i’m upset. i love you but i’m hurt. i want to trust You again and i know you want to be trusted again, without suspicion. i don’t know how long this will take. i felt like you didn’t care enough to really listen to my fears, didn’t care enough to protect me from repeating things that have harmed me in my past. i felt like i was given a false gift, a fake, a precious package that turned out to be a Jack-in-the-Box with a mocking jester that blew-up in my face and mocked me. But if you can hang with me, stay with me even while i’m hurt, when i need you the most, give me aftercare i need from this scene, it will show me that you do care, will start to put drops back into my love tank. That will mean everything to me and help me come back, help me trust you with my whole heart again.

Love,

gabriella.

Categories: aftercare, anger, balance, communication, conflict, counseling, trust | Leave a comment

Can Trust be Restored?

xray heart hands

They say that broken bones heal to be stronger than they were before. While that’s not necessarily true, bones are temporarily stronger at fracture sites during the healing process, as calcium is being deposited, they do eventually return to a state of being equally as strong as they were. Trust is not a bone, but can it heal like one? Can trust heal as strong as it was before it was broken?

This has been my question, my dilemma. i’m not new to broken trust in a relationship, it’s why i’ve been going through counseling with Maximus, to learn to be trusting. The problem for me is that in my past relationship there were so many betrayals that the only way for me to heal was to remove myself from the relationship–the relationship was just too fractured to heal and had to be amputated. Is that the case now? i’ve been stuck trying to figure out, What should i do?

As i’ve done with questions about BDSM and rage, i’ve started reading about restoring trust. i have begun my research with Mira Kirshenbaum’s I Love You But I Don’t Trust You and i’m finding it quite helpful.

The first important thing i’ve learned from Kirshenbaum’s book is that the mere fact that i am questioning the impulse to flee, to run, to leave the relationship is a sign that it has cause for working on to repair and restore trust. She gives six signs to look for when deciding whether to stay or leave.

1. Would you want this relationship if the trust could be restored?

Looking past the blind rage, remember the past month, the past year before you knew of the betrayal…would you want that relationship? Were you happy enough or were you looking to move on even then before the betrayal?

i was happy right before learning that Maximus had been continuing His relationship with Ms. W. We’d just been to a counseling session with Fern where i shared that i felt the most connected, happiest that i have felt, free of static of mistrust. We had been communicating, understood our love languages. This is why learning of the betrayal was such a shock to me–it had been pure bliss since His epiphany, now shattered.

i want that relationship, the relationship where we communicate, pay attention to each others needs.

2. Does the fact that this betrayal happened ruin everything for you?

Kirshenbaum gives caution here. She shares that while the anger that makes you not want to have anything to do with the other person can last months, that kind of anger eventually subsides, and mostly evaporates with healing. If the betrayal has completely caused you to “re-vision” your partner into something hateful and awful, you can’t stay, but if not, if it’s not clear, then give healing a chance.

i don’t feel like this has changed my vision of Maximus into that of a monster. i am, certainly, extremely disappointed in His decision and it has ruined the feeling of bliss and trust i had finally achieved with Him, but it hasn’t ruined everything. And this is a big realization for me–that it hasn’t ruined everything, just the recent feelings i’d gained.

3. Can I imagine the possibility of forgiveness?

The amount of anger you feel now is not predictive of whether or not you can forgive one day. Forgiveness comes from a realization or understanding that we can decide to let this go; perhaps better understanding their motives, what they were dealing with, or appreciating their limitations. Is your lack of forgiveness destroying your own peace of mind and happiness?

Yesterday, i came to the realization that Maximus had come to a crossroad when i’d last raged two months ago. He had to choose how to proceed with Ms. W while i and we were going through counseling to deal with my rage and mistrust. When i wrote my blog about it, i shared that i was disappointed in the lack of integrity He showed in choosing the easy wrong. Later i was reflecting on what Maximus had said when admitting that He had lied about the continued relationship with Ms. W and concealing it from me, and that was He believed that if i knew He still had a relationship with Ms. W it would slow down my recovery and prolong the process. This was true, it would have. But that still didn’t make sense to me why He would intentionally make a decision that would cause me such pain and hurt, until i recalled how Maximus kept insisting that this was the past not the present. This statement infuriated me, because i took that as Maximus knowing about the continued relationship and lying about it for two months and therefore it was in His past, but it was in my present. However, after thinking about this, i believe that Maximus was not communicating well. i have come to the realization that what He was trying to tell me was that He had made this decision to continue His relationship with Ms. W under the influence of His feelings of guilt about the breakup of her marriage, which was His past belief that influenced His decisions about her. He was not able to make a decision to distance Himself from Ms. W at that point, as He felt enormous guilt, and therefore, knowing it would hurt me  if i knew, decided to conceal the relationship. It was wrong, it probably would not have been the decision He would have made now after discovering the fallacy of His belief of guilt versus the reality in fact.

That being said, i am still extremely hurt by the decision. And there was communication with Ms. W the day after His epiphany, much of which was deleted. But i do understand His intention, even though the execution was poorly chosen. i don’t believe He was malevolent in this decision, and that will help me to someday forgive Him, when i’ve had a chance to heal, to get rid of this anger and hurt and toxin.

4. Does the person you mistrust care about how you feel?

Has the other person gone out of their way to show their caring? If not, rebuilding trust is impossible. “With caring, anything is possible.”

i have to say that Maximus has shown care and concern about how i feel. The most important thing He has done was to give meeting with Fern the utmost priority when He had an enormous amount of work to do the day before going offline for the rest of the week on vacation. He could have easily refused, but He did not. In addition, He kept in contact with me during His travels until He was out of cell phone range, despite me continuing to be upset with Him, and did so in a positive and upbeat manner. He could have well chosen otherwise.

5. Can the other person work on your relationship with you?

You’ve got to talk, share information about things that are difficult to say and difficult to hear, and do it without destroying each other. Neither of you can tell the other person to go figure it out on their own and come back to see if it works. You have to listen when you need to be heard and make yourself be heard when you don’t want to talk anymore. Don’t attack, don’t blame, don’t call each other names when that’s really all you want to do–it will make you feel better in the short term, but destroy any feeling of safety, the safety the other person needs in order to talk.

i do feel Maximus is willing to work on our relationship. He has been willing to work on our relationship when i have been dealing with my raging. He’s going to counseling with me, He’s read and discussed books, He’s listened to me, He’s shared His feelings and experiences when it was difficult. We have a framework, Imago.

6. What do you have to lose by giving your relationship a chance?

What’s the worst that will happen if you try? If you try and find out that this person can’t or won’t change, then you know for sure, no regrets later for not trying. But it could also work out, if you go through the process correctly, if they want to earn your trust, it will work out, and you’ll be glad that you did not give up on it. Right now, you don’t need anything more than just a wisp of a feeling that there is even just a chance things can be salvaged. All you need now is the thought that it’s worth attempting.

i do believe it is worth trying. i’m not ready to give up on us, we are worth trying to salvage.

Kirshenbaum believes that broken trust is not like a house on fire, where what’s burned is burned; she believes it is like a broken bone, that what’s broken can heal.

Broken bones heal all the time. Yes, it’s painful. And yes, it can feel like it’s taking forever. But it doesn’t take forever at all.

She also shares that when we discover that our partner has done something bad, we believe it reveals their true character, when, in fact, all we’ve discovered is one truth about them, that they did this bad thing. You can’t let this one thing make us blind to all the good things they do, just as we ourselves are capable of doing stupid, weak, ignorant, selfish things as well. Let the other person have the chance surprise you with their good qualities, just as they’ve surprised you with their bad one.

i will be continuing to discuss what i’m learning from I Love You But I Don’t Trust You in the next blogs. The next posts will discuss the process of restoring trust.

Categories: anger, conflict, counseling, honesty, trust | Leave a comment

The Crux

crux (n.)
1814, “cross,” from Latin crux “cross” (see cross (n.)). Figurative use for “a central difficulty,” is older, from 1718; perhaps from Latin crux interpretum “a point in a text that is impossible to interpret,” in which the literal sense is something like “crossroads of interpreters.” Extended sense of “central point” is from 1888.

i can’t stop thinking about what’s happened. And i think i’ve been able to narrow down the crux of the issue, which, interestingly enough, is a word that comes from cross, as i believe the issue is how i feel Maximus dealt with a crossroad.

fork in roadmy feeling is that i do not agree with the decision Maximus made when standing at this crossroad. His justification, that He gave me, was that He felt that me knowing about His ongoing relationship, communicating and seeing Ms. W, would delay the process of my healing. my issue is that He really had three options to make when standing at that crossroad…one easy wrong and two difficult rights.

And i feel His decision was a breech of integrity, that He chose the Easy Wrong. This is why this hurts so badly, not just that He intentionally lied, but that i feel there was a lack of integrity in the decision. There were two right options, one that may have slowed the healing process, that is true. i feel He chose Ms. W, the easy wrong, rather than me, the difficult right.

i’m meeting with Fern Friday to go over this.

Categories: conflict, counseling | Leave a comment

Aftercare…not just for BDSM

spooning2

It’s been a hard couple of days.

i returned home after posting the last blog and promptly raged again. i feel full of poison. i understand how Maximus felt with my big rages two months ago where He felt poisoned and needed time for the toxin to clear His body. i don’t know what the half life of this toxin is, just as He didn’t know what the half life of that toxin was. i wish it wasn’t in my bloodstream, but it is.

We met with Fern yesterday afternoon. i’d texted her after the rage Sunday and made an appointment for us. i’m so very glad i did; so very glad Maximus agreed to go despite His busy schedule (He did begin to protest when i told Him to pick a time that worked best for Him, but He stopped Himself). She guided us through the Imago process. It was horribly hard. i felt so sick, so hurt. But it helped.

monkeyThe thing i really needed to start my healing process was for Maximus to hold me, i mean REALLY hold me. i’d asked Him for it several times, crawled into Him several times, but i just didn’t feel genuinely held. To me, it felt like i was being held by one of those wind-up toy monkeys, the ones with the cymbals where their arms mechanically crash the cymbals together–no feeling, just process. i talked about my need to be held during the session with Fern and i could see that Maximus still wasn’t understanding. i described the monkey and then said, “What i really need is Aftercare. Healing, restorative holding” And i saw His face instantly change, His body completely change. He got it…this He could understand.

“This would have prevented the rage this morning,” He replied. “I didn’t get that, but I get it now. It totally makes sense to me.”

We discussed the cyclical problem that my not being held in aftercare from this emotional beating had been. i was devastated, raged, needed healing, but He was afraid of this raging woman and pulled back, which made me need aftercare even more intensely and not receiving it, made me rage again. And so on.

He promised to take time for aftercare when we got home. And He did. And it helped.

We have healing to do. This was a big hit for me, one i didn’t see coming and it blindsided me. We will both be seeing Fern separately and together to work on this. i dropped Him off at the airport this morning so He could head to California for a backpacking trip through Yosemite with His brother. It’s going to be a good break for us both, an important break with time for us to think about our relationship and how to proceed. “I’m so sorry I’ve put you through this,” He said as we said our goodbyes at the airport. “We’ll get through it,” i replied. “Yes, we will. I love you,” said Maximus as we embraced.

Categories: aftercare, anger, communication, conflict, counseling, relationship needs | 1 Comment

Lies

The other night i noticed odd behavior from Maximus. He wouldn’t put His phone down, walked everywhere through the house with it, even while changing His clothes. When He went to bed He first put the phone on the charger in my office but after i got up shortly thereafter, He got up and put it next to Him in bed. He’d also revealed accidentally to me days before that He’d changed the access code as well. This made me uncomfortable.

So in the morning, i accessed His phone. And i found that He’d deleted years of text messages thread, everything actually, from Ms. W. Every text from everyone else for years was still there, all but hers. Next, I found an unread email from her in His inbox telling Him she missed Him and related details if His week. And on His sent folder, an email thread from the day after His epiphany all about Finding days to get together and details of His evening…that happened at a time i’d been unable to get a hold of Him.

He’s been telling me throughout our counseling that He’s not had any contact with her, not seen her, not talked or texted or emailed her. Not only has He been doing that, but He’s been continuing it after He had this supposed glorious breakthrough where He said He was going to move on and not contact her.

i started with Imago. And He said it was all true, that He had lied to me deliberately about this and felt justified in doing so as He felt it would keep us from resolving our issues.

Seriously?!? Containing an ongoing secret, lying affair with a woman which has been the crux of our relationship crisis would be helpful to resolving our issues? In what world does that make sense?

Furthermore, Maximus has continually told me that He believes in honesty and truth so much that if He ever lied to me, or anyone He was in a relationship with, it was proof that the relationship was over.

So, to me, He’s telling me that He’s deliberately lied to me and that means He’s done.

i have been completely bare and honest, both in counseling and on this blog. i have shared how lying and dishonesty in my past relationship has been so hurtful and harmed me so greatly that even the fear of it can cause me to rage. He’s fully aware if this. And He deliberately did that to me.

He thanked me for not raging. And then He tells me, when i remind Him of His promise about if He lies to His partner, that “I gave Myself a pass.”

And that’s where i raged. Threw all His stuff in bags, clothes, sex toys, gifts. Everything. i carefully put His computer away and then as i brought it to Him i wondered…how many times has He been with her during this process? How many times has He been fucking her? It’s not in His daytimer where He puts EVERYTHING. i ask Him over and over and He won’t answer. i pulled put His daytimer and pulled pages out.

He screams, “That’s My life! You’re destroying My life!” And years the daytimer out of my hands. i yell back, “it’s a daytimer, You are actually destroying my life, our relationship.”

It was ugly and awful and we yelled and struggled. Eventually we sat down and talked more. He didn’t leave and Ge helped clean up the mess we made of the house and unpacked the car.

i texted Fern and we have an appointment with her this afternoon.

But i’m furious. Emotionally, mentally, physically exhausted. And i was short with Him. Which pissed Him off and He packed up again. i told Him to stop and after some time He did.

We talked. He went to sleep and i couldn’t.

This morning He got up, didn’t touch me, didn’t acknowledge me, got showered, dressed, made coffee for himself and went into my office and started working.

i left.

i look at this and think, why should i continue this? How long do i wait for there to be an honest happy relationship with Him? It’s been 10 months of angst with 9 days of bliss, based on lies.

Guilt for breaking up Ms. W’s marriage? How about breaking up our relationship? Try THAT guilt on for size. It’s not a belief, this one is FACT.

Categories: anger, communication, conflict, counseling, intuition, lying | Leave a comment

Liar

Maximus has been lying to me about Ms. W.

i am devastated.

Categories: anger, bat shit crazy, BDSM relationship, communication, conflict, counseling, insecurities, intuition, lying, relationship | Leave a comment

Ending a Chapter & Spread’em

end of chapter

Maximus and i had our greatly anticipated joint session with Fern the other day. It went really well. We also had some great discussion on the way to the appointment. We both feel very good about where we are, how far we’ve come, what we’ve learned about ourselves and each other. At this point, i am wanting to take off the training wheels and not have weekly scheduled appointments with Fern, just as needed, which i think will be fairly infrequent. Maximus has learned a lot from His solo sessions with Fern and would like to work with her one-on-one more. my intention is to be supportive and present for Him while He does this, as He was for me when i went through my work.

We have some homework, which is to work on a relationship vision. Fern will be sending the assignment to us next week to work on. We are both very interested in this.

Maximus is also interested in delving more into the D/s aspect of our relationship with Fern, to better understand the psychology of it, and also to learn how to incorporate this aspect that works very well for us into the other aspects of our relationship. We had some really good discussion with her, especially in regards to how our style of D/s differs from others we read about. i don’t have any issue with that, Maximus is, intrigued, i think, by this and wanting to make sure we are interpreting our kink correctly. During our discussion, Maximus noted that He was not sure that commanding me, “No!” or “Stop!” during conflicts would be appropriate and was concerned that with D/s that was the expectation. Fern shared that in some relationships that might work, but in others it might lead to increased conflict by the submissive feeling unable to express themselves and unheard. i shared with them that my feeling was that our D/s does not include Maximus commanding me “No!” or “Stop!”, even during our intense play, and that i felt that our D/s was “Development” and “support.” Maximus’ style is to develop people, to develop me, to help me discover my limits, discover my greatness, develop into the best person i can be; my style is to support Him, nurture Him, take care of Him.  Maximus really connected with this. Our D/s is our D/s and it doesn’t have to match anyone else’s.

spreader

Maximus was waiting for me when i arrived home from work…with presents! There was a beautiful dress, an enormous silicone butt plug, and a spreader bar! The butt plug….well we are going to have to work into that–it wasn’t even fitting into my pussy! We had a wonderful time with the spreader bar though. Maximus positioned me on my back and secured my ankles to each end and then had me hold onto the bar. He played with my pussy and clit, not allowing me to let go of the bar. He brought my legs up, pushed them forward, pushed them over my head–it was great! i begged for Him to bind my wrists to it as well, that i didn’t feel bound enough, and He finally bound my wrists to each ankle, which was amazing! He fucked me, fingered my pussy and made me squirt all over my chest until it ran in rivulets around my neck, and finger fucked my mouth, making me gag. Right as i was entering subspace He turned me so my head hung over the side of the bed and alternated fucking my mouth with His cock and then His fingers. This blew me away!

It was wonderful to get back into our kinky sex play. We are in such a great place and i feel that we have arrived to that place in our relationship that we have been seeking all along. Maybe that’s unfair to say, because i think Maximus has been there already…i finally caught up, having dealt with my insecurities.

Life is GREAT!

Categories: BDSM, counseling, D/s, Spreader bar | 1 Comment

Maximus’ Epiphany

aha moment

This is a very important post, a culmination of all the hard heart work Maximus and i have been doing these past couple of months.

Maximus had an epiphany, an “Aha Moment” yesterday.

Maximus had His first one-on-one appointment with Fern via Skype yesterday, but it wasn’t where He had the epiphany. After His appointment, He texted that it had gone very well and that He wanted to share with me. Due to our schedules, it took several hours before we had a chance to go over it.

Maximus had done a lot of work prior to the appointment to put together timelines and notes so He could explain to Fern His relationship history and the timeline of Ms. W within it. Much of the appointment, He shared, was Him going over this history. When He finished, Fern asked Him to share with her His feelings of these events rather than the timeline. At first, Maximus said He was kind of taken aback by this and had difficulty describing His emotions about His history. They spent quite a bit of time discussing the emotions He felt about JB and the breakup of their marriage, but nothing about Ms. W. After this discussion, Fern mentioned to Maximus that it seemed to her that i had not shared a lot of the details about this relationship with her and felt that perhaps Maximus had only shared the timeline of events rather than His feelings about the breakup with JB. She asked Maximus to consider sharing His feelings about the loss of His second marriage with me.

While Maximus was explaining His session and Fern’s request to me, i thought to myself, “Wow, how off-base was this session?” How have they so missed the mark?” And actually, i was kinda ticked off by this session because i truly understand the breakup of Maximus and JB, know every detail and emotion because Maximus HAS explained this very thoroughly with me. i have NO ISSUE at all with JB or Maximus’ emotions from the breakup or about her now. And i realized that the only time i had shared Maximus’ history with Fern was at my first session, which was a huge amount of me talking trying to get all of His and my relationship histories communicated to her. The rest of the sessions have focused on my rage response and unfinished emotional business from my previous marriages.

So i shared with Maximus, who wanted to go over His emotions about JB at this time, “i have no issue about JB and i have, what i think is, a thorough understanding of your emotions and feelings about the breakup of your relationship with her. The big issue is that i have no understanding whatsoever of your emotions and feelings toward Ms. W. And i’ve been asking for that for months. In fact, when i have asked you to explain your feelings toward her, you answer ‘I have no feelings about her. She’s taught me about birds, we’ve gone for hikes, but i have no feelings about her,’ and that has been extremely frustrating to me. Of course you have feelings about her, we all have feelings about everyone we encounter in our lives. You have feelings about The Englishman, You have feelings about SwimmerGuy. i feel that by telling me You have no feelings about Ms. W that you are evading the question and i feel frustrated and hurt by that.”

Maximus pondered this and then agreed, by way of an analogy about feelings about olives, that yes, we do have feelings and emotions about all people and things we encounter, emotional responses. And He realized that it was true, He had not answered my question about His feelings about Ms. W. And that He never understood why i kept asking the same question over and over as He thought He had answered it, but now realized that He never had. “I’ve been thinking you’ve been bat shit crazy asking me that over and over, and now I see why you’ve kept asking.”

So Maximus started in on His feelings about Ms. W. “I feel pain, anger, and guilt. And i feel support and friendship…” And then He continued on talking, and i needed to have Him explain these feelings as they were so radically spread out across the board from negative to positive feelings and i didn’t understand. Why does He feel anger and pain about her? So i stopped Him and asked Him to explain each feeling in detail as i needed to understand.

Maximus explained that He felt pain, anger, and guilt about Ms. W over the breakup of His marriage with JB. Pain, because He was deeply hurt by the breakup and angry about it. And He, “in the past,” felt an enourmous amount of guilt for introducing He and JB to Ms. W and Covert Ops, which led to the breakup of their marriage. “But I’ve worked through that, with the help of counselling, talking to Ms. W, The Englishman, and you, and that helped Me understand that I am not guilty and should not feel guilt about that. I don’t feel guilt anymore.”

“So what about support and friendship, then?” i inquired, “Explain that to me.” He responded that Ms. W and He had a common experience and shared information and supported each other during the divorce process. “I got a lot of support from her from the breakup until the spring, when you appeared in My life and grew to be more of my support than she was.”

“Ok,” i continued, “that’s all your feelings in the past. You’ve explained the pain, anger, and guilt you felt in the past at the time of the breakup, the support during the divorce process, but that doesn’t tell me how you feel about her NOW. How do you feel NOW?” Maximus went on to explain that He feels friendship, friendship of someone who has had a common experience, but that He does not and has never felt a connection with her, and has never felt love for her. “If I met her at a party and we started talking I would be bored. If she said, ‘Hey, we should get together and meet for coffee or drinks sometime’ and gave me her phone number, which she would never do, I would thank her for her number and say, ‘Sure, that’d be fun,’ but I’d never call her. I just don’t have a connection with her and never have.” He continued, “I have always struggled about not having an connection with Ms. W. I kept telling JB that I just didn’t feel any connection and she told me I needed to figure it out and ‘Don’t screw this up,’ so I just sucked it up for JB. And, as I’ve told you before, the sex is pedestrian, vanilla, boring.”

“So,” i replied, “would it be accurate, based upon what i am hearing you say, to say that You were taking one for the team with Ms. W?” Maximus exclaimed, “Yes!!! That’s exactly what it was!” And here is where i have my struggle and always have had. “So here is were i am completely confused in that, to me, Your words do not match Your behavior.” i continued, “You are no longer with JB….there is no team for You to take one for, yet You still have sex with Ms. W, which You describe as pedestrian and say You don’t enjoy; and you continue to do things with her, someone you don’t connect with. You don’t have repeat sexual encounters with anyone else that You’ve not enjoyed having sex with–only Ms. W. In fact, You did not enjoy sex with little e and have turned down play dates with her and Big E because of it. So to me, there has to be a reason, that You’re not telling me, some feeling, that makes You continue to engage in sexual activity that You have said over and over and over that You do not enjoy! Moreover, You tell me that there is no connection with her personality as well, that if You met her socially now, there would be no draw to her. This is the crux of my confusion, it makes no sense to me and makes me feel like You’re not being completely forthright about Your feelings about her. There has to be something that’s driving this, some feeling. What is this?”

Maximus replied, “you’re making me feel defensive about this.” And i responded, “Well, it’s not my intention to make You feel defensive, i’m just communicating how the incongruency of Your words and behavior make me feel. i’m sorry that it makes You feel defensive.” He then answered, “Well she calls me up and wants to fuck and she hasn’t got anyone else to fuck, so I do it. I don’t abandon people, you know that.” i replied, “That’s not Your responsibility. You don’t have to fuck her because she has no one else to fuck, that she’s not found anyone else to fuck. And she never will find anyone else to fuck as long as You continue to give her the impression that this is something you want and enjoy. You’re leading her on and it’s really inconsiderate, actually. She will never move on as long as this continues. Furthermore, i think You are doing this out of guilt, that while You say over and over that You no longer feel guilty, You are having sex with her to make up for the fact that You feel responsible, because of swinging, for the breakup of her marriage and You somehow owe it to her to make it up through sex. And as long as you continue to do this, she won’t be able to move on, You won’t be able to move on, and we won’t be able to move on. You aren’t abandoning her, You are allowing the friendship to take its natural course, honestly. Not having sex with her is not abandoning her.”

The phone was quiet for a moment and then Maximus said, “Oh My God, this is a break through. I’ve not considered this and I think you’re right. I’ve been saying over and over that I don’t feel guilty but my actions are saying it different. I am enabling her by doing this and that’s just wrong! I don’t enjoy sex with her, I don’t seek it out, but I am having sex, which I don’t enjoy, because she asks for it and I feel guilty. Oh My God. Here I’ve been thinking all along, why doesn’t gabriella get it, that i don’t have a connection with Ms. W, and now I get why you just haven’t gotten it. you must have been thinking, i love Him, i trust Him, but i just don’t get this, why is He acting this way?

And i responded that i had been trying to explain this for months. i’d ask Him to explain His feelings for Ms. W, get an evasive answer that He didn’t have feelings for her, try to explain my confusion, and getting nowhere, would eventually get so frustrated that i’d rage at Him. i just felt so frustrated and couldn’t articulate in a way that He understood. i got to feeling that He was avoiding answering or not being truthful about His true feelings for Ms. W and reverted back to the feelings I had during my relationship with OneGuy and his dishonesty and took it all out on Him. i’d try to be calm, but frustration took over and i exploded. That is why i raged every time we started talking about Ms. W. As he continued to insist that there was no connection with Ms. W, sexually or otherwise, it gave me an impression that His relationship was unconditional, that she could do no wrong and that there was a connection deeper than ours.

i also shared another thing that i had discovered about myself, and it wasn’t until i read The 5 Love Languages book that i realized this. Maximus, as a way of making up for His guilt in breaking up Ms. W’s marriage, would sneak food and money into Ms. W’s car and purse when she visited, as she had been forced out of her home by Covert Ops and JB and lived in a one room cabin with very little income. He felt responsible for that. He would also collect old magazines for her so she’d have something to read as she did not have internet or cable. i have felt jealous about his, especially the magazines, and it really bothered me that Him giving Ms. W old magazines made me feel jealous. Now i understand, though, that i was reacting to the feeling that those little gifts were gifts of love, as i was viewing them through the lens of my primary love language, when they were really gifts of enormous guilt. “Yes!” Maximus replied, “I was trying to repay her for the huge financial loss she had encumbered due to my breakup of their marriage! In fact, if she had asked for money, I would have gladly given it to her.”

We then reflected on what we had accomplished with this dialogue and how important it was. And we discussed the logistics of how Maximus was going to proceed with His friendship with Ms. W. “I can’t keep having sex with her, it’s just wrong to do that.” i shared that one of the reasons why it was so difficult for me to understand how Maximus could continue to have unenjoyable sex with Ms. W was because of a great non-sexual relationship i have with a couple i used to swing with, Crash and Double D. i had tried four separate times to have an enjoyable sexual encounter with him, and finally had to let them know that we weren’t going to be able to continue a sexual relationship together. We are wonderful friends, i’ve never had more devoted friends and their friendship means the world to me.

Maximus has asked for guidance from me on how to have the conversation with Ms. W about not continuing a sexual relationship with her. He is concerned that He will lose her friendship. And i shared with Him that honestly, He has no control over how she will respond to this, but He has to be true to Himself and her. That is what He owes her. i promised to work on writing down what i had said to Crash so Maximus has some ideas on what to say. In addition, Maximus will wait until she contacts Him again for another sexual encounter to have this discussion, in person, in private, not seek her out to tell her. They can remain friends, do things together, visit. We have both agreed that she can stay at His house, but not in the same bed together, as that would be midleading (Maximus’ words), and while she does do a good blow job, there can be no sexual contact, again, as it would cause confusion and hurt. And i trust Him in this. These were His plans and His decisions and i support Him in them.

i cannot entirely explain the relief from hurt i had from this dialogue. i have been carrying this confusion and pain of not understanding and not being able to articulate to Maximus in a way He could understand for months, since September, ten months, actually. It was like a sliver, something small that when brushed, even ever so slightly, caused pain and irritation and i just couldn’t dig it out to make it stop. Yesterday removed that splinter.

Maximus asked me to write this blog before His next session with Fern on Monday. i was absolutely emotionally spent after we were done and wasn’t sure i could write this, but today, i felt renewed. In fact, at the end of the conversation, Maximus said, while spent, He felt like an 11; i replied that if it wasn’t for being exhausted and having a headache, i’d be a 23. This blog is my act of service for Maximus, as i know that He really wanted a accounting of what happened, what was said, so He could refer to it as notes when recounting it to Fern. It was a pivotal dialogue.

Once He has His next session with Fern alone and we have our joint session this week, we really do think we will be done with this chapter. It has been a difficult one, a hard story, but one with many lessons. And i believe we are all the better for having gone through this. There is a reason we stayed with this, stayed with each other. It would have been easy to have just split, written us off as an incompatible relationship, me as some bat shit crazy chick and He as some philandering liar, and look back upon it as a failed relationship that ended in bad feelings. But it is always better to go with the difficult right than the easy wrong. We are stronger and closer because of it.

Categories: BDSM relationship, communication, conflict, counseling, honesty, relationship | Leave a comment

Priorities, What’s the Conflict, and Leaps

priorities

i think it’s safe to say that the Imago dialogue has been one of the best tools for our relationship. While we’re not perfect at it, stumble through it most of the time, it has given us a framework to be heard and takes the volatility out of communicating our misunderstandings. This week we had a disconnect on communication and scheduling. i really started to feel i was not a priority to Maximus. And really, right now, it is hard to write this blog in much detail because it has been so diffused by our dialogue that it feels like a non-issue!

The crux of the issue were behaviors that made me feel that i was not a priority, not that i wasn’t a priority to Maximus–there is a huge difference there. But, as perception is reality, my feelings were MY reality. i shared my feelings about this with Maximus via text, but He was viewing this through His lens, His world, and responded by telling me all the reasons i’d not heard from Him, all the reasons our plans had been rescheduled. i could see that He was not considering my feelings and, in fact, i prompted Him to take some time to consider how it might be helpful for Him to mirror and validate and have some empathy about how i might be feeling rather than giving me a list of reasons that felt like He was invalidating what i felt, thus confirming my feeling of not unimportance. We were at an impasse, texting was not working, so the discussion was stopped until He would arrive the next day and we could do Imago.

Interestingly enough, by the morning, Maximus texted, “In reflecting upon yesterday I would like to profoundly apologize to you. I will work harder to better communicate to you regardless of the events that are surrounding Me at the time. you’re in My thoughts every moment of the day but I need to work harder at communicating that to you. Again, I apologize from the deepest part of My heart. I love you and I can’t wait to see you very soon.” i was still hurting and knew that texting or talking on the phone while He was driving down would not be effective, so i let Him know that i needed to wait until He arrived at my home to talk about this.

We went through the Imago dialogue process and it really helped Maximus understand how i was feeling. And it gave me a chance to feel heard, without blaming or critcizing Him. This seemed to help Maximus consider how He was prioritizing all areas of His life, Relationship, Family, Work, and Fitness, and realize that this was occurring in all four areas of His life, not just with me. We discussed strategies to help both of us.

This could have been a horrifically volatile event. But it wasn’t. Were there tears? Yes. Was there raging? No. Was there understanding? Absolutely. Is there carry-over resentment? Absolutely NOT! It’s so well communicated that i’m having trouble blogging about it now!

What’s the Conflict?

question marks

Once we are able to dialogue about issues, Maximus and i can move on without underlying static. It really is remarkable. i don’t feel there is any unfinished business, no unheard issues.  This allows us to really be able to talk and share later, without grudges on old business, days later.

Last night, in a change of plans, Maximus and i decided to go out for happy hour and dinner. We ended up staying for hours, talking and talking and talking about us, how counseling was going, how the framework of Imago dialogue was helping. And we had some epiphanies, two in particular.

The first epiphany was about how Maximus and i define conflict. And it was really akin to Bill Clinton’s response during grand jury “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Maximus was explaining that He visioned our relationship completely free of conflict–happy. This seemed completely unrealistic to me. As we sat at the bar, i decided to use an analogy to explain to Maximus how i felt having an expectation of a conflict-free relationship set us up for extreme failure. My analogy was about work, that overall, when He considers work, He finds it fulfilling, enjoyable, challenging, and that He really, really loves what He does. However, there are times when it is aggravating, frustrating, there are disagreements with others, conflict, and issues need to be dealt with, but that does not change the overall feeling that He loves His work. He did agree with that, but noted, “but there’s no conflict there.” This confused me, because i had just described a linear timeline of years of his work relationship with lots of little conflicts over the years that were dealt with but did not diminish His love for His job. i ran my finger along the bar in a timeline, showing a linear relationship of time with little stops of conflict all along, but that this did not divert from a feeling of happiness and satisfaction at the arrowhead at the end that was still moving forward through time. Maximus pointed about 3/4 through the line and said, “But there’s no conflict there,” and i pointed all along the line and said, “There was conflict here and here and here but it was dealt with.” And then we realized…i define conflict as a disconnect, something that requires an intervention of some sort to deal with a misunderstanding, a clarification, whatever, to prevent a catastrophic event; Maximus defines conflict as a fight, a rage, something damaging and huge, the catastrophic event!

whats the conflictWhat an amazing revelation! And how important is that? i’ve been thinking Maximus is unrealistically expecting a relationship free of misunderstanding, when He is describing a relationship free of damaging fighting. We completely agree on our relationship vision, we just define the words differently! He did not view disconnects or misunderstandings as conflicts, as i did–of course!

Leaps

leap

The final epiphany had to do with my communication needs. Maximus had been considering His communication style, in light of our dialogue the previous morning, in regards to me understanding the commitment in GOT. He shared that He thought He finally realized why i had trouble with this, something He felt was so clear and strong. He shared with me that He just couldn’t understand why i would have the question, “Why did You choose me?” when it was so obvious to Him. But that He is realizing now, that the question, “Why did You choose me?” was not questioning His decision to choose me, but that it was a request for validation, for Him to share what things led Him to choose me! This was a leap in thought for Him!

And this was clear to me! i started to giggle actually, because this became completely clear to me two weeks ago when we did the couples intake forms for Fern! i realized, when Maximus answered the question about what made Him fall in love with me, that we’d never discussed that before, and it made me cry to hear Him answer it. i know i’m great, a great catch, i just wanted to have that validated from Maximus.

We are back on track and better than before. We have developed techniques to enhance our communication and to deal with the occasional misunderstanding/conflict in order to avoid catastrophic conflicts. And we both feel we are ready now to have guided communication with Fern about the elephant in the room–Ms. W. The groundwork is done, the framework established, and we are ready to move forward.

Categories: balance, communication, conflict, counseling, Imago, relationship, relationship needs | Leave a comment

Beginning Imago

relationships

Maximus and i had our first couples counseling session with Fern. We did our session over Skype, He and i together and Fern remotely. It was a good session, setting a foundation for Imago therapy. Maximus was a bit confused, however, trying to figure out how we were supposed to use Imago to stop a rage event, but after He and i discussed it further after our session, we both understand that Imago is used to guide communication to resolve conflict prior to rage, to prevent me from having a raging event. This provides a framework for me to feel heard and for Him to not feel attacked.

Imago, developed by Harville Hendrix, PhD and his wife, Helen Lakelly Hunt, PhD, is based on theory that most conflicts are 90% triggered by past wounds and only 10% about the present situation. Furthermore, it is based upon your partner being the most ideal person to help you resolve those past wounds. Imago uses the connection between the partners to dialogue about issues rather than discussing them, in a safe space, at a time when both partners are able to fully be present for each other. The process  starts with one partner requesting an appointment to dialogue and then proceeding through a structure of Mirroring, Validation and Empathy.

Making an appointment is a crucial step in beginning this process. This requires the partner who has something to dialogue, be it an appreciation or a conflict, to request the presence of the other and to be able to articulate what the general topic would be. The other partner can either agree to discuss it right then, or request that they discuss it at a specific time later, when they are more able to commit to the process.

During mirroring, the sender articulates their thoughts, feelings, or requests using “I feel” or “I need” or “I love” statements, from their perspective, not shaming, blaming, or criticizing the receiver. The receiver listens mindfully, not interrupting, not stopping the sender. When the sender stops, the receiver starts by saying, “Let me see if I got what you’re saying…” and repeats back what the sender told them. This requires the receiver to really listen to what’s being said. The sender then can reply, “Yes, you got it,” or acknowledge things that were correct and  recommunicate things that were not picked up. When the receiver has mirrored back the sender’s communication correctly, the receiver asks, “Is there more?” The sender should ponder and add more if necesssary, and the cycle repeats, or acknowledge that they have communicated everything about this issue. At this point, if the sender is done, the receiver will then summarize what they have heard the sender communicate by starting, “So in summary, what I heard you say is…Did I get it?” The sender needs to listen and acknowledge or reiterate anything that was missed.

In the next step, validation, the receiver starts. In this step, the receiver acknowledges the sender’s perspective, but does not judge whether they believe it to be right or wrong. They are merely showing the sender respect for their reality, accepting that both partners may have different viewpoints. During validation, the receiver often starts, “That makes sense to me because…” and describing how their behavior or communication might have been received by the sender different than their intention.

The final step is empathy. Here, the receiver starts by communicating how they think their partner might be feeling. “I imagine you might be feeling….about this. Is that how you are feeling?” The sender now has a responsibility to acknowledge whether they got it or not, and if not, share what emotion they are feeling about the situation.

Imago Phrase Cues

SENDER
I would like to dialogue about . . .
Is now okay?
I feel . . .
I love . . .
I need . . .
What’s bothering me is . . .

RECEIVER
1. Mirroring
Let me see if I’ve got you.
I heard you say . . . or You said . . .
Am I getting you? or Did I get that?
Is there more about that?
Summary mirror
Let me see if I got it all . . .?
Am I getting you? Did I get all of that?
or Is that a good summary?

2. Validation
You make sense to me, and what makes sense is . . .
I can understand that . . .given that . . .
I can see how you would see it that way because sometimes I do . . .

3. Empathy

I imagine you might be feeling . . .
Is that what you’re feeling?

Maximus and i practiced this with Fern using an appreciation rather than a conflict. This allowed us to practice the steps without having to focus on a new way of communicating AND an issue. We stumbled through it. This is really a new way of communicating for us and we are not yet used to the structure of it. But, we did see the value in it. A big concern for Maximus is the empathy step, as he feels he is not an empathetic person and has difficulty assigning feelings to situations. Fern understood this and will be sharing a list of feelings with him for him to refer to in these situations. i don’t think Maximus is un-empathetic, i feel that the generation he was raised in devalued emotional/sensing/feeling response in males, seeing those as feminine qualities. i have, many times, been able to relate situations Maximus has encountered that were similar to something we are talking about, so He could put Himself back in that situation and remember how He felt at that time and apply that to our current situation and how i am feeling. This works if i know of a situation to relate it to, which isn’t always the case! i know Maximus IS empathetic, it will be a matter of developing that skill that was not valued, and i think Fern can be helpful in this.

Another thing we discussed with Fern, in context of Imago, was in regards to overcommunication. Maximus is still concerned about His overcommunication or oversharing and how i communicate better in writing and He communicates better orally. Fern shared that it is important to be able to contain ourselves when communicating, that we consider the impact of sharing every thought and thought-process rather than crafting the communication to share the thoughts more succinctly.  Maximus uses His communication to think out loud and that can be confusing for me, especially since as a writer, i present my thoughts on paper completely analyzed and edited to say exactly what i want to communicate–i don’t share the non-edited version. i take His communication as if it is edited, not a work in progress.

And it was a good thing we learned this concept and practiced Imago dialogue with Fern, because we had two instances to use this technique later that evening.

The first instance was right before dinner, about two hours after our session with Fern. Maximus and i had been discussing the session and playing with the Imago technique, summarizing our thoughts with each other. We had to cut the conversation short, however, as The Englishman came home before we were completely finished. When The Englishman wasn’t paying attention, Maximus shared with me how much He felt we were on the right track and held His hand up, wiggling His right index finger, and said, “And this [the ring i gave Him] will be back soon because of it!” The air was immediately sucked out of the room for me and i felt like i’d been sucker punched. i’d had no idea that He was not wearing the ring intentionally because of my last raging episode and worse, i’d not even noticed. i immediately excused myself to the bathroom to sit down and respond to this in private. i was horrified, sad, upset that i’d not noticed, upset that Maximus shared that when The Englishman was present (not that he’d seen it, but that i felt like i couldn’t talk to Maximus about it now and i felt set up for failure). i returned to the kitchen and motioned for Maximus to follow me. We went upstairs to the master bathroom and i asked Him if we could have a dialogue about the ring, and He agreed. We stumbled through the process and it really helped me to be able to calmly explain my feelings about it, feel heard, and for Maximus to understand my feelings, perspectives, and how that felt hurtful to me. He shared that His fingers had swollen in Las Vegas, which i knew, but that He had decided to wait to put it back on after we were back to normal, even though His fingers were no longer swollen, and do that with me ceremonially to celebrate our renewed togetherness. He had not, however, realized that i had not noticed He was not wearing it, assumed i knew He wasn’t, and it had not occurred to Him that i would feel hurt by Him not wearing it. This dialogue helped me feel heard, helped Him understand my feelings and perspectives, and make changes that benefited us both–He is wearing the ring. And no raging occurred. Raging would have most definitely occurred in the recent past with something like this.

The second instance was after we went to bed. While Maximus was on His business trip, He mentioned to me that He was planning on heading to Nordstrom to go see what He could find to get for me as a surprise. i thought this was wonderfully sweet and i was looking forward to seeing what might be in my drawer when i got to His home at the end of the week, which has been a thing that Maximus has done in the past to surprise me. He did not get a chance to go to the mall on that trip, however, but the expectation had been set up that He was planning on getting me something. There was nothing in my drawer when i arrived, but Maximus mentioned that He wanted to take me to the mall, to Nordstrom the next day and was very vague about it, so much so that i thought that was the new plan, to go together for that something for me. Unfortunately, our day got very full and the session with Fern went long, and we did not have time to go. As well, i had not brought clothes to go to the mall in and when we started out to go, Maximus felt He was peacocking me, overdressed in comparison, and then canceled our trip. i later asked what this trip was about and He said it was to go get Him some new dress slacks, which to me, seemed odd for Him to have been so vague about the trip if that was what it was about. By the time we went to bed, i was feeling that i had somehow disappointed Him with the session with Fern or how i’d dressed, and it caused Him to change His mind about getting me a gift. i ended up getting triggered about it during some rougher sex and excused myself to the bathroom to compose myself–Maximus allowed me this time to cry and breathe and return to Him to dialogue. i started by asking Him if we could dialogue about Nordstrom and then as we dialogued, i realized that my feelings were really about His overcommunicating. He actually thanked me for talking about this issue and how it made me feel; He had no idea that He was doing this, setting up my expectations for something that was on His list to do at some point, picking up a gift for me from Nordstrom. He’d not realized that His thinking out loud set me up to believe that i had a gift coming and could see how there being no gift and a canceled trip to Nordstrom would make me feel the way i did. “You’ve helped Me become a better person with this,” He shared.

It’s not intuitive yet and it’s not easy either, but we do see the merit in this process. It did help me not rage. i believe that it helps by requiring me to request a dialogue, knowing i’ll have His full attention, and that i have to give a topic of conversation, a focused conversation. Additionally, it allows me to talk without interruption and hear back from Him what He’s hearing, allowing me to clarify when we’re not on the same page. i feel heard and that my feelings are validated.

Categories: communication, conflict, counseling, Imago | Leave a comment

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