|Mary and Dave B.|
We were still in our thirties and still in our first marriages, which were not very fulfilling. At that time phrases such as "family-of-origin" and "dysfunctional relationship" had no meaning to us, nor would they for some time to come. We were both into our work, which we used as a means to isolate from each other.
Our relationship began with a chance meeting one evening at a local bar and restaurant. We were each with friends from work and we would deny that we were looking for someone that evening. But meet we did, and we followed it up with an agreement to have lunch the next day. There was no doubt in our minds that we were meant for each other, and the lunch led us to an affair that lasted the next five years. As a result we eventually divorced our partners and got married a few months later. We were full of optimism that this time we were going to do things right.
It was almost impossible for us to see what was really going on in our lives at that time. We were addict and co-addict fulfilling each other's needs and were blind to any reality. We would reshape our lives, and others would have to fit around our plans. It is interesting that our character defects were so invisible to us during this period. We were enmeshed. Looking back, we see there were plenty of warning signs about the problems ahead, but we were oblivious to them at the time.
A year after our marriage, our old behavior patterns began to surface, and the idyllic marriage began to develop "cracks." Dave had welcomed Mary's two daughters, saying that it would give him a chance to "do it right" this second time. Dave could see what he had missed with his own two daughters. Mary wanted a husband, not a father for her children. She wanted Dave to act like a friend or an "uncle" to them. He wanted to parent them with the discipline he had learned from his stepfather. It took another year for the marriage to get into really rough water; it became a destructive whirlpool that pulled everyone in.
Eventually we decided to seek counseling for step-parenting skills for the oldest girl, who was twelve and was starting to have problems of her own. Those sessions caused us to really look at our relationship and the reality it held for us.
Dave felt more out of control and confused than he could have imagined. The ideal life he had created was now coming apart. The feeling of abandonment was with him every moment. His job of some fourteen years was also in jeopardy as he had been neglecting it for some time. The "lie" he had lived with was out in the open. It was a relief, but it was also very frightening. Now he was ruled more than ever by feelings of shame and guilt and was heavily into his sexual addiction. His addiction continued the odyssey of craziness that affected the very core of our lives and the lives of those around us.
The fights, the rage, the isolation, the impotency devastated us. Dave's other life was getting harder and harder to keep secret. Four years later the "Happily Ever After" marriage was virtually at an end. Dave tried to explain his sexual addiction to Jane, who went into a state of shock for a long time. She took it upon herself to learn everything there was about sexual addiction. The "watching" consumed her.
As he started reading the books of Dr. Pat Carnes, Dave admitted that he was addicted to sex. He promised to go to SAA meetings and did so for nine months. Then for the next four and one-half years he practiced a deeper secret that he hid from Mary. She was excluded from his secret life. Each felt that life was okay during that time. Mary didn't realize that Dave had gotten back into his addiction three years earlier. He clearly had under-estimated the power the addiction had over him.
There seemed to be no way to reestablish trust. The end, each agreed, had come, and they would part in a civilized manner. Now the secret was out with children and friends. Mary felt a great relief, even though the marriage had not made it. She proceeded with divorce despite feeling they really had some type of love. We both knew that the relationship would fail no matter what--or so we thought!
As Mary was waiting for the attorney, she picked up a copy of a national magazine and flipped through the pages, and there staring at her was an article on sexual addiction. It stated that whether male or female, sexual addiction could be treated successfully and the prognosis was excellent.
We met over the "last lunch." She explained what she had read, and Dave said he would find out more. His heart was finally talking. He found out that other couples were hoping to start a support group for couples in recovery. The necessary arrangements were made and we met with two other couples. This was the first RCA meeting.
The hardest part for Mary, however, had just begun. She started dealing with her responsibility in the relationship and discovered that she had brought many of her old traits, good and bad, into this relationship, as well as into her first relationship. In front of two other couples we made a six-month commitment to work on our relationship. We committed that we would not abandon each other during this time, no matter what (except for physical abuse).
Our major challenge was dealing with the underlying damage which was becoming so clear to us. This included lack of trust, couple shame, lack of intimacy, and a deep fear of abandonment. Mary was afraid of leaving Dave. She also was fearful of abandonment. We both realized we have a talent for zoning out. Now that the fear of abandonment was identified and spoken of openly, we could begin our work on our relationship and do some solid work in recovery as a couple.
Our weekly meeting helped us deal with so many crises, little and large. It was a safe place for us to open up to each other and to be honest in front of safe and caring couples. These two couples were instruments in our having a loving and gentle marriage. We thank them now and forever.
We cannot say that the hurtful words and actions are gone, but we can say we understand them and what brought us together. We realize all too well that it is an ongoing process. We still fight; however, the past hurts, mistrusts, and issues are in a clearer perspective.
Our mutual sadness about our childhood is now openly shared with each other. We understand that pain, but we do not dwell on it. We have lives to live and, most importantly, a true loving and intimate relationship to build.