Relationship Issues We Are Not Alone



Thank you for sharing and letting alll of us benefit from your growth and strength. More than one of us are at these kinds of crossroads of relationships.
I know AM. I've read about it many times on the board. What has been remarkable about our relationship over time has been the willingness of each of us to do our own work. It has been a rich, rewarding journey with her. Because she has chronic health challenges I can understand her choice to step back from what has become clear is the significant effects trauma has created in my life and that tends to spill over into our relationship. I read threads on the Family and Friends forum in part to understand what the women who remain in often tumultuous relationships are doing to make it all work. But so far as I know, none of those women are as challenged as is my former wife.

So we are moving away from one another but without rancor. I'm disappointed she has made the choice she made AND I'm reminded every day, every moment of every day... that this is my life and there is no salvation in that relationship. Honestly, there is no salvation in any relationship... even if loving kindness can help make both partner's journeys a bit easier. I have to learn how to care for myself. Right now I'm heading out for a hike. Taking care of my aging body is one element of self care that is important. Thanks for post AM.
Had a wonderful hike this afternoon... gorgeous weather... but I keep coming back to the reality everything has changed. What had for so long been a safe harbor to me... my relationship with this woman is gone and I have no replacement. That was how I always coped with a relationship coming to an end... getting ready to hunt for the next woman. I didn't understand exactly what I was looking for, any more than I understood why I had to withdraw emotionally from every relationship I found myself in after succeeding in my hunt. Right now I know all of that was the product of trauma... both the longing for a woman who would make me safe and the terror of any form of intimacy that made it impossible to accept the love offered to me by these fine women who chose to marry me.

So I walked with a short mantra... be here now, in this body, on this trail. I felt myself dissociating as I walked to my car to head out for my hike. I had to bring myself back into my body. But I'm talking with friends, which helps and spending time here which also helps. Thanks for the question Jim. I have no idea how I'm going to do this but my 12 Step work tells me it is one day at a time. I don't have to know anything beyond taking care of myself at this moment in time. I had a lovely salad for dinner and am sipping a glass of rye whiskey. I won't drink too much and I'll head to bed early so I can do a bit of spiritual reading. Tomorrow is another day.
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When I started treatment for alcoholism, I looked at guys with 30 years of sobriety wondering how that was possible. It has been 37 years now and I know how they do it. One day at a time. It really is all we have. You are right to take it that way. Peace to you.

i admire you for what you have been able to do. I know i need to do the same here with my partner but i cant get there. maybe one day i will but i cant hurt him so i just take it. Please know that i admire your courage and the fact you are doing what’s is healthy for you.
Thank you for your kind words SMC. A moment ago, after writing in my journal, I went back to see when I started in that particular binder. The first entry was March, 2019 on the day of my first appointment with the therapist I found on this website. That would have been only a few weeks after I shared things with my "partner" that led to her distress. I read a few entries and noted the work I was doing then is the same work in front of me now... to tell the truth about my journey, my experience and find compassion for myself as I continue my healing. And that is all about caring for myself. I haven't been able to value myself enough that I can make caring for myself a priority. Stepping back from the relationship that has given me a level of comfort for decades is at once terrifying and exciting. I'm living the terror moment to moment but I sense this is an opportunity to do something for myself that I've NEVER been able to do before... my shame was that great. I could never see myself as worthy of anything.

Blessedly, I've been receiving support from friends and from folks on this website, including women who post on the Family and Friends forum whose partners are trauma survivors. Trauma spills over into every relationship, often unrecognized until some crisis brings it to the surface. One woman sent a message that completely broke me open. She said, We are all brought to our knees in times like these even if we are the stronger for it in the end. And that is the truth of it for all of us. All I know is that I can't give myself away any longer. How I wish I were doing this dance with one of the women on the Family and Friends forum who are able to both care for themselves and support their partners through the struggle to heal. My friend isn't able to do that with me and I finally accepted that reality... and so I'll do this without a partner but with friends who care for me. I'm sorry you still suffer my friend. You too deserve more. How you get there I have no idea. It has taken me two years to find the strength to step away and even today I'm pretty fragile. I hope I make it.
I spent a bit over two hours on the telephone with my former wife this evening. She sent an email yesterday in response of the exchange we had Thursday of last week when I stepped away. I responded to that email and she sent a text this evening asking if I'd be willing to talk. 35 years of knowing one another, through joyful times and painful times, we are still able to have honest, meaningful conversations. She didn't realize how much pain I was in as a result of things she'd said and she apologized. So for two hours we shared about what we're feeling, what frightens us with one another... as well as about how precious we each are to the other. I have no expectations about anything changing but like her, it is difficult to imagine life without her in it in some meaningful way. Blessedly, I am still receiving wonderful support from friends. Today five of us met in person without masks. We even exchanged hugs with one another. We've each had two vaccine injections and the required waiting period, so we felt we could take the risk. My work continues... showing up each day and caring for myself to the best of my ability. Tomorrow is a trip to the laundomat... the first time in over a year. Yesterday I visited the lovely Vietnamese woman who has cut my hair for over thirty years. Her salon is now in her home. I hadn't seen her in over a year. One day at a time is the best I can do. Thanks everyone for your support.
Today I brought my laundry to my former wife's home and we spent the afternoon together having the deepest conversation we've ever had. Somehow through the recent events we found our way back to one another in the most tender way... I have no idea what happens next, but I'm humbled by what can happen when we are able to step through the trauma and meet our loved ones with an open heart. I have so much to learn about being in an intimate relationship and it seems the 35 years we've had together gives us the foundation to do the REAL work of healing... with someone we love. We are not alone... and sometimes relationships that are important to us can open to even deeper levels of intimacy. I'm so grateful that I didn't self-destruct after stepping away. That happened in large measure because of the support I received here and from my friends. Thanks everyone for your good wishes, here and in private conversations.
Visitor, whatever you, you both, decide, it will be a good decision. Does it sound strange when I tell you I am proud of you? Because I am!
Thank you Darren. Actually, I'm feeling humbled more than anything else. Part of this healing journey has been accepting all the ways I've played a game to survive... pretending I've got my shit together when in reality I'm a frightened little boy pretending to be a grownup. Yes, I've done some grown-up things... had a "successful career," completed a graduate degree... but through it all I was relying on some form of acting out behavior to soothe myself when life felt too much to bear. That is the reason I was incapable of keeping an intimate relationship from imploding. I always ran away, even when I remained present. So this is all the product of healing trauma, which can be an amazingly difficult thing to do since the residue of trauma can grip us as any moment.

But, yes, this is a remarkable occasion. She held me when I cried about how hurt I was by how she pushed me away two years ago... how frightened I was. And she apologized, saying she had no idea I was so hurt. We spoke about the importance to sharing what we're feeling. It is hard for her when I go away and don't tell her what I'm feeling or what I need... exactly the kinds of things that I find practically impossible to do. I don't know what I'm feeling because ALL of my attention is focused on determining what you need so I can give it to you and thereby avoid being hurt... AGAIN. A lifetime of fear that we'll be hurt again... the journey of every survivor. But I'm learning, and this woman loves me and wants to share this journey with me. I find it nearly impossible to believe that there is real love in the world for me... that is why I couldn't accept the love of the four women who married me. But I'm doing my best to open to this woman's love and to return it to her. There was a moment this afternoon when we sat across the table looking silently in one another's eyes and it was love I felt and love I gave. THIS is the healing journey.



Many a so called "average" couple (one in which abuse is NOT a factor) have paid thousand$ in counseling fees for the kind of breakthrough you and your former wife had this week.

The way I see it, you and she have much to celebrate.

Thank you Henry. Between the cost of graduate school... studying psychology... and personal therapy the two of us have probably invested a hundred thousand dollars in coming to terms with the trauma we each carry... so it didn't come cheap. When we were walking yesterday she noted what has been clear for a long time... that our relationship has been about transformation. I always held an image of the two of us connected by a rubber band. We spent five years as friends during which we completed graduate school, then, to both of our surprise, our relationship morphed into to a six month courtship and six years married living in a studio cottage. (June 21 would be our thirtieth wedding anniversary.) The marriage fell apart when I finally "remembered" the sexual trauma by the three generational family living next door. She moved out and we saw little of each other for about a year, then I offered to help her contend with the chronic health issues she'd been experiencing for many years which led to 21 years of navigating life together, doctor's appointment, surgeries... two wounded puppies doing our best and occasionally falling on our face... for me that involved forays into pornography and alcohol. One or the other of us could be ahead or behind the other person but the rubber band never broke... I removed the rubber band ten days ago and thought we were done... only to discover we aren't. It brings tears to my eyes... the simple truth that it is possible to share my deepest fears and not be hurt again. I felt the depth of my terror yesterday walking down a street near her home... sobbing in her arms as I told her how frightened I'd been.

Clearly we each needed the last two years to learn about how trauma affects us. My real graduate education has happened on Male Survivor, in my personal studies and in finding a more honest way to share who I am with people in my life including my former wife. A book we read in graduate school has a title that really says it all... Characterological Transformation: The Hard Work Miracle. Honestly, this is what all of us are doing both on the board here and in our lives. Trauma consumes lives... we live with desperation and terror, shame and confusion. Digging our way out is honestly the most important thing we can do both for ourselves and for those whom we love. I'm honored to be part of this community and grateful to every person here who is willing to share their healing journey with me. We really can only do this together.
@Visitor, some of the stuff you reflect on regarding trauma is so heartfelt it brings tears to my eyes. Thank you. That's such happy news that you and your partner are reconciling. I don't know you well, but like what I do know, and I was truly worried for you when I read about your split up.
Thank you Dolphin42. Honestly, when I stepped away from this relationship last week it felt like a very positive thing I was doing for myself... one of those acts of self-care I talk about... a confirmation that I am worthy, lovable, cherished BY ME. Yes, it was also terrifying because I've spent my whole life believing the only way I could survive was through the acceptance and love of someone else. I understand we ultimately all need the support and kindness of others. We're not intended to be alone, though many of us survived only be isolating ourselves. We couldn't tolerate the give and take of intimate relationships. I pretended I could, but obviously I ran away from every woman who said she loved me. I'm pretty confident every trauma survivor struggles with intimacy and those struggles often involve some form of sexual behavior that is rooted in the trauma we experienced. Shame consumes us which makes relationships even more forbidding. Releasing shame and telling the truth about our struggles is really where healing begins and I know that is what is happening here. That I seem now able to care for myself without needing to diminish my friend with whom I've shared so much over the decades, including the dark places in myself is shocking to me. It feels like grace. And my beloved friend is saying by word and deed that she wants to continue our journey together... without knowing what the exact form of that would be. And so we're taking another step and I'll be able to keep telling the truth, with my heart open and my belly soft. I'm humbled and honored to be doing this and sharing it with men I respect on this board.


When I started treatment for alcoholism, I looked at guys with 30 years of sobriety wondering how that was possible. It has been 37 years now and I know how they do it. One day at a time. It really is all we have. You are right to take it that way. Peace to you.
Excellent work! It truly is one ay at a time, and you're only one drink away from losing that time you have. Keep up the good work.