Marriage and revisiting the past

I recently had some feelings come up again regarding my husband’s porn addiction and more specifically, the fact that he used to blame me for everything. I started to feel resentful about things that happened in the past. True, things have been very good between us for the past four years, but that doesn’t erase the 22 prior years. I was starting to tell myself unproductive stories that painted me as the victim.

I thought at first that I’d need to talk to my therapist about it. But then I realized that I could process it on my own. After all, these are old issues, long ago resolved. He’s still avoiding porn and no longer blames me for things that aren’t my fault. Sometimes those memories of when he did still affect me because I tend to be very hard on myself. I still get defensive sometimes because I expect to be blamed, even though that doesn’t happen anymore.

But then I thought about all the things I’ve done over the years that have hurt him, too. I won’t enumerate them because dredging up the past isn’t helpful, but suffice it to say that I have not been an angel, either. I was not some poor long-suffering innocent victim. I gave him reasons to want to escape to a fantasy world, most specifically in terms of not treating him with respect.

At the time, I would have said that I did respect him but my behavior said otherwise. It’s only in retrospect (because I have also changed) that I realize for how many reasons he needed my forgiveness as well.

Maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone’s marriage. But while we’ve always gotten along well and were best friends, we didn’t always treat each other as well as we should have. Having been married for 25 years and together for 26, we truly grew up together. Sometimes that was messy.

Mostly, we both separately realized that marriage is about giving each other room to grow–and recognizing and accepting how much work we each needed to do on ourselves. I’m sure there are some marriages where people remain stuck in blaming the other and holding grudges. Maybe those are the marriages that end in divorce or just the ones where both people are unhappy but don’t feel compelled to do anything about it.

To me, though, it’s about growing as individuals and as a couple. The breakthrough for me was when I started to become more able to put myself in his shoes. When I learned how to do that, I stopped making critical comments and started to appreciate him in a new way. I realized how many of my old behaviors toward him were ones that were modeled for me by my family and I wanted to break the cycle.

I also had to evaluate myself and my words and actions with more honesty. I had to stop seeing myself as the wounded spouse and take responsibility for myself, which I’ve done in all aspects of my life. Does this mean I’ve got it all figured out or that I never lapse back into old habits? No. But with time, the old habits fade into a memory I think neither of us particularly wants to remember.

Sometimes old hurts still come back for me, bubbling up from my subconscious mind. But I can let them go and not let them ruin today. I can’t change the past, but it also has no value to revisit things I can’t change. What I always have to remember is that I do have a choice about what kind of wife and person I want to be going forward.

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