Monday, July 31, 2006

Going NC on the IM

I had a scary moment yesterday afternoon. I may not have handled it wisely, but I managed to avoid a very ugly situation.

I was conversing with my "step back from that ledge, my friend" confidant via IM when my wife got back from her grocery trip. When I saw the minivan pull into the driveway, I should have just cut the conversation off at that point, but I decided instead to stay online. I took my usual prodcedures to obscure IM usage, and I headed out to the minivan to help my wife unload the groceries. Acts of service are probably her number 1 love languge, so I was trying to cheerfully fill that tank.

After that was done, I returned to the computer and picked up the conversation where I left off. The conversation was pretty tame. We were discussing the confidant's husband's mannerisms and why he might be that way. I was trying to offer up some fresh lines of thinking for her to pursue, but I was failing badly since she has explored many of those same paths herself.

At one point, my wife comes moving down the hallway, swiftly and unexpectedly. She wanted me to hurry and take a look at how cute our older daughter was sleeping on the bed. I had not minimized the IM conversation window in time for her not see it. She asked me who I was talking to. I said it was one of my supervisers, which was plausible because the guy lives, eats, and breathes IM 24/7.

I went back and saw how cute she was and then returned to the computer. My wife came back in and saw the window still on the task bar and asked if she could see the contents of the window. Given that the window, when fully exposed, would have included a screen name tipping off the gender of the person, I told her "no", and I closed down the IM program.

I got up to talk to her. I could tell she was going in a very paranoid direction. She accused me, saying it wasn't my boss. I told her that I was in the midst of a conversation with my brother, and it was something I didn't want to talk with her about. That just fed the fire even more. She started demanding to see my work IM contact list. He wasn't on that list. Neither was the confidant. I refused to give in.

I told her that I was talking to him about the stuff I have been going through with respect to our marriage, and I didn't feel comfortable discussing the contents of that conversation with her. I needed some space for confidential discussion. I had no close friends locally with whom to talk abou this stuff. She asked me why I didn't go talk to her best friend's husband, with whom I am also friends. I told her that I couldn't trust it getting back to her via her friend. The boundary is too porus.

I turned very emotional, telling her that I am struggling with two different sets of feelings. There is the feeling of anger that comes from not having emotional needs met and then being denied their validity. The second is fear that if I may do something rash because of that anger. I didn't want to destroy our marriage and wreak havoc on the kids. I said it was like my brain was having an argument that had elevated to a scremaing match, and I just needed someone to talk to. By then, I was in tears. Those feelings were very real, and they were live and uncensored. She gave me a hug and told me that she couldn't work on repairing this marriage if I was goint to lie to her.

That whole evening I was in a very bad space. Mrs.' best friend's husband and her daughter joined us for dinner because Mrs. best friend was at her job for the day, so I suspect both of us did some covering up to make everything seem okay. After they left, I asked my wife a followup question to the argument we had last Tuesday. "Why was she so quick to ask me if I wanted a separation?" She said it was because I had already said that resolving the initimacy problems was needed to keep the marriage from ending. She said she was worried that I was going to do something to hurt myself. I don't have a history of being suicidal, but something on me must have been flashing that word in bold neon.

After the kids went to bed, we went to work on the homework for tonight's counseling session. I had already looked the exercises over a few times to get an idea of what it was about. It looks like it's drawn from the Imago therapy program.

The topic of the exercise was to get a description of the ways that parents didn't meet our needs, and it did so through a combination of the Hegelian dialectic and mad libs. We made lists of postitive and negative attributes and expereinces with our parents and caretakers. Then these two groups of concepts were assembled in a fill-in-the blank synthesis page (their words, not mine).

I completed the worksheets in about an hour and a half. I heard my wife doing stufff on the computer during that time, so I figured she wasn't putting all of her mental energy into it. By the time 11 p.m. rolled around, I asked her how she was doing. She whined about not being a good writer and not knowing if she was doing it right. She asked me whether I wanted to sit in the family room with her, and I agreed to do so. We talked some, but she wanted to get a Gymboree order in before midnight so that she wouldn't lose her expiring Gymbucks, so I spent most of my time reading the love langugages book. The environment was calm, so I gathered that whatever anxiety she may have had must have subsided.

Around midnight, I retired to bed and continued reading. I didn't really pay attention to what she was doing back in the family room. She had Big Brother on pause when I was in there, so I suspect she continued to watch that. She came to bed and we eventually drifted off to sleep.

I've been on edge to day a bit. I'm probably anxious over how tonight is going to go. Will she have done her part of the homework? Will she try to bring up the IM thing? I thought about countering with her "we'll call you back in two weeks" sex therapist who never called back.

Last weekend I wrote about feeling lonely. Most of my college friends are scattered to the four winds, and I do a horrible job of keeping in touch with them. I've also got a few high school era friends around town, but I only see one of them with any kind of regularity. It wasn't always like this. Since we moved to this town in the fall of 2000, my social world has basically been shaped by plans made by my wife and her best friend. I think part of my fear in reaching out is that I'll have to admit how unhappy I am in my situation.

The events of yesterday will mean that I will have to refrain from confidential IM traffic when my wife is at home because I don't want to trigger her radar of suspicion again. I've already e-mailed my ledge friend and let her know that we'll have to go NC on that channel and do things by e-mail. It will be tough going without that outlet since that's pretty much all I have for venting. What's worse is that now I feel I have no zone of privacy or safety. I wonder at times how much of this is due to my own issues and how much of it is possibly her emotional abusiveness.
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