You are getting terrific advice here, Eric, from Cat and IR. Take time to read and re-read what they say...slowly...a sink-in process...because they are speaking to you from their passion, their core. What is in you sparks in them. Mutuality.
My DH (dear husband) is a SA. He's struggled with it his whole life, much like IR's has. He had some of the same experiences you did in dating relationships in high school, then college. It wasn't until five years ago that he began to address this in himself, through counseling. I fully support you obtaining counseling from an expert in SA. Makes a world of difference, I believe.
Some of the side effects of SA are affecting your relationnship with Bethany. One, as you said, SF becomes an outlet, a physical cure to a perceived ailment...not an intimacy. Utilizing a bodily function like a tool...getting a fix. Translates, symbolically, into humans as tools...increases intimacy distancing and distracting...seeing other equal, whole human beings as two-dimensional objects...and the objectification affects all your human relationships...creeps in...and sates your fear of intimacy...of truly knowing and being known...of accepting and being accepted...hits your core self and distorts your life and how you experience it.
It is really tough partnering an SA. We have our own experience, our own reason for being drawn to someone with an addiction...which is our own, in a way. Understand this about Bethany, too. You're not the problem...you share this problem.
Side effects, not causation. Just to distinguish.
At the seat of SA there are a lot of parallels to alcoholics...like you cleaning out your cache of porn and then procuring (perusing) it again. Every broken promise to yourself hurts...depresses...saddens...increases distrust in yourself. Often, you will perceive yourself acting radically honest with others and continuting to lie to yourself. Tough way to live. Understandable. Been there, done that. Understand that Bethany's boundaries in this regard, each broken promise to herself, also creates that self-betrayal pain, too. You guys share that.
Thank you for your comments on my post to you.
I trace my emotions back to as far as my mental conscious can reach. I never make it to a solid answer.
Trace your emotion in the moment to the belief it is coming from. Takes awareness and commitment. "I feel sadness welling up right now. I'm thinking about <blank>. Comes from my belief about <blank>." Approach without judgment...when we investigate to know, we cannot judge the path as we are on it. Stand back and listen to the belief you're perceiving or viewing something. Hear yourself. You speak.
Be prepared to hear beliefs which may baffle you. A friend tells you someone plowed into his bumper and didn't leave a note. You may feel your friend's anger, fear...his emotions...you may experience a reinforcement in your beliefs that people are bums, selfish, out for themselves...and you may experience feel more virtuous, good, better. From your beliefs.
Or you may experience sadness (which is a healing emotion, btw), a wistfulness, wishing car accidents never happened, ever.
Get to know what your thoughts are, focus on being aware of them, and hearing your beliefs behind them. Write down those words you hear...don't focus on where they came from (where you heard them)...understand as you write them down, this is what you're believing right now.
Again, they are choices we made, even before we knew we chose what we believed. You're investigating, not judging.
Listening to ourselves increases our skill at listening to others, btw. Can't go just one way. Some may consider that selfish, negative...denial of self is a constant source of conflict...so we experience conflict with others. Self-understanding is important.
I am the type of person who doesn't invest time and money into something that doesn't provide a return...This I think is my primary character flaw. My fiancee knows this. I think I only feel loved and act upon the love when I feel the relationship is on even ground...But I've been told that in marriage, it is like BOTH sides have to give 90% (not 50%)...
You are not alone. We are taught to judge our actions in the outcome...therefore, to control the outcome through our actions. Crucial flaw...we control our actions, not outcomes. It's a shell game to believe otherwise. There are consequences within our control...you steal a car, you'll most likely get caught and go to jail. There are consequences which continue, throughout our lifetimes, from one action, outside of our control. You have both. Know which is which and don't fool yourself into believing you actually control any outcome.
That's radical honesty. So you don't act from love by stating admiration to Bethany--you state your admiration of Bethany to her because you admire. Getting our intent aligned, our premise set, is the first step. We've been taught backwards...and Harley has it correct...because you act to meet that EN, you will have loving feelings...you aligned with your intent, did not deceive or sacrifice...you connected.
If you make up stuff to admire her for to get her to say she admires you...then you're controlling, manipulating and lying from the get go. Not an act of love, your choice to do it. When you state your stuff (your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, perceptions and perspective), you are acting from intimacy and will experience intimacy. Your job is to know your stuff (and I hear you're stuck on that step) and to share it. And the other half is to know her stuff (what she shares), to know her right now.
Tougher than it sounds...and I think you know this. Your emotions are signalling you that what you doubt most is yourself...and it hurts.
As it should. There's not a thing wrong with you, Eric. You are a whole, complete, wonderfullly made human being, from love. Bethany is your equal in every way. She's complete, too. We don't have awesome marriages by eliminating all our defects...we have awesome marriages because we go through life together. We have experiences we like and dislike together.
Marriage doubles your life experience, deepens, widens, expands it.
Only works if you work it.
Please read Harley's article on The Giver and The Taker...again, acting to your commmitment, even when you don't feel like it.
You can honor The Marriage, even when you don't feel like honoring your spouse or yourself. Do it, anyway.
--LA, i really think reading your words made me realize that loving Bethany is something I have to continuously choose to do...All time, no matter what. And even if I...cannot...I still must act on notions of love. Can you please provide feedback on this?
I believe so, as well. We choose so routinely, so often, it becomes seemingly an automatic choice...your thoughts have dwelled on her, your experiences together, and the feelings follow. You've made her your treasure, a part of you. Doesn't seem like a choice. Good to remember it is a choice...that if you made something/someone else your focus, dwelled there, stopped treasuring Bethany (for instance, dwelled on what ifs/if onlys, focused on fear, lived in fantasy), then you would not have the connection, feel the love you do now. Which is why porn addiction kills relationships.
Like any other addiction, consumes our focus, our energy, becomes our treasure.
Know this about our human design...about yourself...build trust in yourself to redirect your thoughts...and focusing on others, excluding yourself isn't real or healthy, either...awareness of self...listening, understanding, knowing...is your job. Our inherent human responsibility...and sharing yourself is part of it. Whom you choose to connect with, the depth of truly being known and knowing...is for your spouse. That's intimacy. Doesn't depend on the spouse, compatibility, etc...because you've chosen, haven't you? When you choose unreal visuals to do this with, then you are telling yourself you want to disconnect from intimacy.
When you may actually want to disconnect from fear, frustration, pain, anger...something else entirely. Which is essentially saying you want to not exist, not get information from yourself.
Explore your passions...check yourself for passionate gratitude, passionate acceptance, passionate peace...see if your beliefs are precluding you from these experiences. Or boxing them away from your entirety because you've decided they can't be where you find them...we trick ourselves in many ways to "cope"...we learn coping skills first, then living skills...and I think you experienced these in reading posts on this board, at family gatherings, in ways which disturbed you, felt foreign to you.
I know...But I am the one who has created the doubt in her, It was like I wanted to do it...It has taken quite a bit of work to put it in there...While I didn't feel like i was putting it their in objective. I think it happened in result of me communicating, honestly, mine.
You believe you're powerful enoough to create doubt in other people...can you also make them love you, be in love with you, hate you, drive them away, feel happy, make them lash out at you?
Would you consider Bethany doubts, believes, allows your influence, even to what degree? Which means you cannot make her anything but a sandwich. That's it. Your human limit. Hers, too. She cannot make you doubt.
You allow her influence, how much, how little, as well. You control the door, how wide or narrow...and it may fluctuate. Which is why you cannot be controlled, nor can you control her.
That's the essentiality of respect. Understanding and choosing to believe in our human design, embracing what is only ours (responsibility) and our limits (what is not) is acting from and experiencing respect.
She feels. That's hers. She believes. Those are her beliefs. And I think you fear her controlling you because you act on your urge to control...want guarantees of behavior, perceptions, feelings which are not yours...because you can't guarantee yourself your own.
Welcome to our human journey, Eric. You've been on it...experiencing it...by your own choices in what you believe, how you perceive, where your thoughts dwell, resulting in what you feel.
And there's a reason we confuse others influence as under our control...because part of our self-understanding comes from our reflection..the mirror others hold up for us. When it's all...we abandon ourselves and fear abandonment and intimacy (being taken over); when it's part, we're in balance. Others are part of our self-journey...ironically, no one takes it alone...we can't. Not in our design. And wonderfully...the two become one union is part of our self-journey, too...sharing our lives (plural) rather than two having one life, one experience.
But, since I have already caused this pain...Echos of her words radiate though mine and it nearly destroys me to have put doubt of me in her mind.
This guilt and shame are signals you are over-reaching your real power and going into fantasy power. You cannot make her experience. That's grievous from what we believe. Grieve it.
Now embrace the privilege to share her pain...to understand and be there, experiencing, together, exclusively...and grateful for her choosing to do so with you, too. All things come to pass. Emotions deliver the information...they come and go...our relay from our beliefs. Not forever. For right now.
Not a write-off...not a "doesn't matter"...truth of existence...if you abuse someone, you do pound a nail into their wood...and when you amend, and remove it, leaves a scar, a place where something happened...and you make sure you know what, why you pounded that nail...and that you knew it was impossible to undo. We are in this world together. We are going to bump into each other to connect...we are going to hurt, thrive, sorrow and fear. Intentionally and unintentionally...we connect in many ways...through conflict, happiness, one breath or in agreement and commonality. We connect.
Is it possible to get past these silly...But strong (in me) things and fulfill each other's emotional needs?
Find your beliefs...do you believe there is only one person that's meant to be your wife? Do you believe that if you pick wrong, your marriage will fail? Do you believe some humans are truly better for you than other humans? Do you believe your love bank is solely dependent on her actions? Do you call her fears/doubts/questions/investigation silly? Do you discount, deny or dismiss your own emotions? Is that one of your strongest coping skills?
Sadness is healing...you may experience intense anger turned inward, which is depressed, not sadness. You may have to sort out one from the other...the wistfulness, wishing, expectations, identifying your "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts". Identifying what emotion is part of tracing it back to what belief.
"I fear most her leaving me in 20 years." Real fear or manufactured emotion to get you to not do something, hiding another fear behind it?
"I fear she'll control me like my mother" "Replace me like my father"...or
"I fear I will make her leave me...control me...replace me."
All for nothing...not the outcome you want...not what the outcome you strive so hard to control...Find your fears...listen to them...write them down...hold them like the small children they are...do not strike, discount or dismiss them. They are part of you. Not to foretell your future...they come from your past.
One more thing to note...She is a rock; it almost makes me think she doesn't care...but I know she does. If i did not cause relationship problems, there would not be any (or a lot less).
Follow the Golden Mean...anything to an extreme is harmful. Too much of a rock means rockhard resentment. Too much of water, boundaryless, and you drowned in confusion. You are attracted to each other for what you deny and don't see in yourself. You, too, are a rock...and water...wind and sand...so is she. You are both new every single day of your lives, because you make new choices.
Humans are extremely complex...so relationships mean they are twice so...understandable to think if you got just the right fit/combination, no issues...just bliss. Not real. We are all made from the same hand, same material, equally. Diverse, complex, exponents...no issues, no growth...no new...no experiencing each other as new. The journey is the thing.
"and the answer you're looking for...is being one."
what do you mean by 'being one'?
The saying is, "It's not finding the right partner...it's being one."
You are half of every relationship you have on this planet. Your half matters. Choosing intimacy is scary...within and with others. Choose it, anyway.