Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bad Math

Day 33

Does it make any difference? If I do the things that good dads and good husbands are supposed to do?

I'm realizing something today. And no, it doesn't make me look any better. Actually I think it makes me look worse – more selfish, or shallow, or...whatever. But I can't ignore it now that I can see it clearly. We have this complex codependent dance that we've been sharing all these years, and we're working hard to pick it apart. We look at each piece, turn it over in our hands, and try to figure out whether it's helping or hurting. So when one of those pieces falls in my lap, I have to at least examine it. Here's the piece:

I do all these things (dad things, husband things, pastor things, artist things) so that you'll let me touch you.

Somewhere I picked up an interpersonal mathematics full of false equations. (Or “fucking lies” when I'm feeling angry.) Some book or movie worked its way into the relationship center of my brain, and actually convinced me that “if x then y”.

If I make that trip to the store (in the rain) to pick up something for dinner, you'll let me kiss your face.
If I drive home, and let you sleep on the way, you'll actually want to put your arms around me in bed.
If I break up my work day to pick up the kids. If I make them a healthy snack. If their homework gets done.
If I respond to their fights with that perfect balance of authority, fairness, and loving instruction.
If I'm productive and efficient at work.
If I clean up all the rabbit shit.
If I sing the most heart-breakingly beautiful song.
If I write the most heart-breakingly beautiful song.
Then you'll want me to touch you. You might sigh or even moan softly.
Instead of being ticklish. Everywhere. Or too cold. Or overwhelmed by narcolepsy.

I see it on the screen in front of me and it looks so stupid.

Years ago, I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It's actually a really great book. But I just happened to have it in my hands during the first few years of our marriage. When I was trying to figure out why you didn't love me back, any more than a benevolent, platonic roommate. And I over applied habit #1: Be Proactive. (buzzword apology) The basic idea is that we are amazingly more productive when we take action rather than simply respond. Don't sit around and worry that you're going to get fired – observe your boss's weak spots and fill them in. Become indispensable. Take action. Make your own luck. And that's what I tried to do. Rather than trying to fix your problems, I thought I could win you over by out-loving you. It didn't work. Again, I see it on the screen and it looks so fucking stupid.

I now see that book as the beginning of a disaster. Of course it wasn't Steven Covey's fault. The concepts in his book are sound. They were just wrong for me at that point in time. What I needed was someone to teach me how to say, “Don't treat me like that. You're being unkind and it hurts me. Get some help.”

Not that it would have made any difference. I don't think there was any shortcut through those dark years. I love you, Linsey, and you're a wonderful person, but I don't think anything short of our marriage imploding was going to get you into counseling. So we did that. Then we picked up the pieces. Now it's counseling, 12-step groups, books.

But I still have that math in my head: If I stay sober, then you'll like sex. And it just doesn't work that way. I know how foolish it looks for me to say all this when I just “celebrated” thirty days, again. So in the interest of being a team player, from a place of humility (humiliation?) can I just ask that you stay willing to work on your stuff? I just need to know that if I pour myself into this task, if I stay away from all my vices, that you'll stay committed to helping that abused little girl inside of you. Because I know you, Linsey. You don't like to be together in the dark. And me being sober isn't all it's going to take to change that. And there's a nineteen-year-old virgin boy in me, still standing at the altar, dreaming of having a lover. Not just a friend, or a partner, but a lover. You.


  1. I never know what to write. I love you and I'm proud of you and I'm sorry for you and happy for you. You're a good dad and a good husband not because you're perfect but because you're sincere and courageous in your effort to love your kids and wife. I really believe that these qualities are going to beat out your addict, and that you are one of those 33% who doesn't get sobriety the first time, but does get it the end.

    Besides, the "the end" isn't really the point. Facing the struggle with humility (humiliation) and honesty is the point. Rejoicing in the beautiful moments is the point. Fostering compassion for Linsey and for yourself is the point. Not giving up, even when you're your own biggest critic. I'm always happy to read your posts because I can tell you are doing all of these things.

    Your whole family is lucky to have someone with these qualities, including me.

  2. and now it is my turn to say thank you - for writing with such honesty and grace and truth that it makes me very much aware of how far I still have to go.

    I am glad you found my blog. I am taking a week or two off - but will be back for sure to read up on you and your life and all that you write.


  3. Thank you for this very honest post. You describe something that few men can ever say, or women for that matter.

    I'm not sure if you guys have the book "Ghosts in the Bedroom," but it has a lot of great stuff for the partners of sex abuse survivors. I know you're looking for your wife to continue to work on her stuff ... but I just thought I'd share the title in case it had some value to you.

  4. Wow, very honest, raw stuff here. I love the realness. It is basically the only way to my experience. Thank you for sharing and for following my blog. I am glad to have found your writings here and will be back to read more.

  5. I can hear your pain..and your honesty. The issues are real & hurtful, but I'm a believer in life working with you when you try to help yourself. You have a lot going for you. Keep writing and sharing.

  6. W-WMe--I think I finally got how the Blog thing works (or at least part of it). Thanks for cueing me in. I started reading. Bravely candid and though one need not be, also articulate. And per the challenges, I am reminded of something. I call it the "The greatest athlete". I was at the gym one day (yeah, I used to go). A gal comes hobbling in, perhaps muscular dystrophy or something, could barely walk evenly. She gets on the treadmill and goes at it! Wow! And I thought, "If we only put the criteria of how one meets the challenge, she is one of the greatest athletes I have seen."
    The mountain is our own and everyone's peak is high and it is the surmounting not the external altitude that attains the height--well, if that makes any sense. I guess that is my way of acknowledging. As they say, "Congrats!"

  7. How incredibly refreshing to read your thoughts and emotions shared right here with such bravery. Welcome to the sober blogging community. Thank you for sharing, Eli. This survivor needed to hear your words today.

  8. thank you for following my blog eli - your words here - and i've only read a post - echo deep in my soul. i will pray for you as i read - knowing that your story is the yin to my yang - the male to my female - different but so very familiar. thank you.

    are you familiar yet with patrick carnes? his work has saved my life and marriage. he has a work book that my husband and i have gotten 1/2 way through (we moved away from the therapist who was helping us through it) called "open hearts" - it's a 12 step for couples - was so powerful to help us begin to re-engage in real intimacy - which we are still struggling through - but it was a great start.

    again - thank you so much for following me - so that i could begin to follow you.