How do you forgive yourself?

Discussion in 'Rebooting in a Relationship' started by SequinHistory, May 12, 2020.

  1. SequinHistory

    SequinHistory Fapstronaut

    I’m struggling to come to terms with the person I was before recovery. I see the damage I’ve caused my wife every single day and the guilt I feel is overwhelming. I’m trying to be a better person and a better husband and I’m cleaning, cooking more, trying to get into shape, talking openly about my recovery, writing in a journal and structuring my time etc. I’m in therapy and have been for some time, and my mindset is completely different from the one I had before.

    I appreciate my wife in a way I never have before, but I am finding it hard to accept how I treated her in the past. I can’t believe that I could behave like that. I lied and manipulated her everyday and I still slept like a baby, whereas I can barely sleep now thinking about what I have done. I put her in a position she didn’t deserve to be in with a person that she didn’t even know. How could I have done that?

    How do other people cope with these feelings or guilt? When did you forgive yourself, or have you ever been able to?

    I realised today that this wasn’t guilt; it was shame. Guilt is a positive feeling that pushes you to change. Shame is the feeling that you’re fundamentally wrong and incapable of being different. I shouldn’t be even contemplating forgiving myself. I should be focusing on being a better husband and partner for my wife. These last few days I’ve been so focused on my own feelings that I haven’t paid any attention to how she’s been feeling. It’s not good enough and I will learn from this mistake.
    Last edited: May 13, 2020
  2. Les_Brown

    Les_Brown Fapstronaut

    First and foremost, kudos to you for your progress and efforts to recover the relationship with your wife.
    1) Why is achieving self forgiveness an end goal for you?
    2) Have you had the opportunity to share with your wife the guilt you're feeling? If so, how did she respond ... if not, why?

    Sometimes, what a wife wants most in recovery is just to be cherished, treated with dignity and respect, and shown the love she never fully got during the years of addiction. It sounds like you're doing that already so I think you're a good husband. Perhaps one day when you can feel that yourself ... How good of a husband you've become, self forgiveness may follow suit. Perhaps the continued guilt regarding past mistakes encourages you to continue on a righteous path and striving to be the best husband you can be to your wife. So, while forgiveness is nice I personally don't think it's essential to healing in every human being. Maybe for some, but not others.

    One thought to consider is that healing for you and your partner may be a life-long process. As your relationship continues to strengthen and seem so much better than your worst periods of addiction, it may be important to continue checking-in and sharing each other's emotions. Hence, neither partner assumes that just because things have been good there's no reason to talk about the past and be vulnerable about how you're feeling.

    You are no longer the person you used to be. You were under the influence of the addiction. Are you responsible? Ultimately, yes. But, you already know that.
    Did you intentionally want to cause your wife pain and treat her that way? I highly doubt it given that it takes a lot of courage, compassion, love, and vulnerability to get to where you are in recovery. Having that inside you suggests you are a good human being at heart.
    Last edited: May 12, 2020
  3. kropo82

    kropo82 Fapstronaut

    Talk to her. Does she see the changes in you? My wife gets angry when she thinks about some of the bad times my porn use led to, but at other times she is so positive about the changes I have made. Recently she said that she has never felt more loved by me, and we've been together since 1983! Moments like that make me so proud of the way I have tackled my porn addiction and how I have used that as a way into becoming a better me.

    All of those things are super important, but the one that I predict will make the most difference is one you do not list, because it just slips into our lives as a result of eschewing porn, and that is that we become more emotionally present in our life and our relationship. We are no longer preconditioned to be defensive when the hurt we have caused is brought to the surface. That's great, but it is also a problem. Going foward we are able to take responsibility for our actions without being defensive and hiding, but what about the hurt we have already caused? It is a tough question and I do not think it has an answer.

    One thing I did recently, and I am not sure if this was a good idea, was to write down everything I regret. I have a list in Google Docs and when a regret surfaces in my mind I try to write it down. There are a few things that are odd about the list. One is that it's strangely short, way less than 40 things and I'm 54. The other is that not everything bad I have done makes it on the list. Some things I find I can forgive myself about while others make me cringe even decades later. I am not sure what differentiates the two sets.

    I've just read an interesting book, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. In it there is a real emphasis on self-compassion. If you are like me then one of the things that led you to your addiction was that porn is such an effective way to hide from our fears. But if we layer guilt and judgement anxieties onto those fears then they become even more powerful. Try talking to yourself as you would to a friend.

    I don't know why the feelings you are experiencing, which I shared a few months ago, have gradually dissapated in me. I think it was the slow realisation that while it is important that I acknowledge and own my responsibility for those terrible things I have done there is nothing practical I can do about it, so my efforts are better spent on being the best version of me that I can be from now on.

    @vxlccm, any thoughts?
    Last edited: May 12, 2020
  4. SequinHistory

    SequinHistory Fapstronaut

    Thanks for the reply.

    My wife is really supportive and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her. I spoke with her today regarding the guilt and she thinks it’s a good thing, as it shows that I’m changing and that I’m thinking about things now.

    However, that doesn’t change the things I’ve done. I’m from the UK, my wife is from the US and we met in Spain. We’re currently living in the UK and since we’ve been together she’s missed important family events (funerals, weddings etc.), she feels like she’s lost her friends from home, she feels like she’s lost her career prospects and she misses her family so much. She said all of this was worth it before because of our relationship, but now I’ve taken everything from her and the worse thing is it never existed in the first place. This was my wife’s worst nightmare and I made it a reality.

    Thank you for your kind words. I just can’t believe how I acted before, how I could hurt the one person who loves me unconditionally. The damage is irreparable and my wife speaks often of how she doesn’t see a future where she’ll ever feel secure or trust anyone. She is seeing a therapist which is good but she doesn’t really have anyone else to talk to. The guilt I feel is unbearable sometimes, and I just don’t know what to do with it.

    How is your wife coping with her betrayal trauma? It’s been about 5 months since the first full disclosure for my wife, although I drip fed information and pain over that span of time.
    Last edited: May 12, 2020
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  5. SequinHistory

    SequinHistory Fapstronaut

    We talk and she has definitely noticed the positive changes. It just doesn’t feel like enough for me, as I can’t change the things I have done and the way she feels.

    I’m getting better at opening up to her and being less defensive, but my knee jerk reaction still comes out as anger/ frustration and dismissal. I’m trying to correct this and I’ve been doing a good job, but it still takes a conscious effort.

    Congratulations on your wife’s comments- that must feel wonderful! You’re right about the past hurt, and this is what is tormenting me. I know I’m not the person I was before but I feel like I’ve taken so much from my wife that i can never give back. It almost feels like I’ve killed the life she was supposed to have and that pains me.

    Writing down your regrets sound like a good idea. I’ve heard of a similar thing with regards to people who have hurt you in some way, as a means of forgiveness and letting go. I have been journaling a lot more recently and that has helped me process the way I feel. I suppose seeing the hurt I’ve caused on paper makes it sink it more.

    I’m glad the feelings have dissipated in the last few months. How is your wife dealing with her betrayal trauma? It’s been about 5 months since I told my wife, with two separate “full disclosures”, so we’re still in relatively early stages (which is terrifying in it’s own way).
  6. Psalm27:1my light

    Psalm27:1my light Fapstronaut

    How far along in recovery are you? How long has she been seeing a therapist? She will never be the person she was before betrayal and she needs time to grieve that loss. She will never trust people the way she did before betrayal. That part of her brain has been damaged and needs to heal. However, she can heal and get to a place where she can form deep relationships. I once told my husband (who expressed the same regrets as you), that there is nothing he can do to make up for what he’s done in the past, except be a better man, free from addiction today.
  7. SequinHistory

    SequinHistory Fapstronaut

    Thanks for your reply. It’s been about 5 months since the first full disclosure and I’ve shown the most improvement in the past month, after the second full disclosure. My wife and I have been in therapy for about 3 months. My therapy has continued via Zoom since the lockdown, but it’s not in the same format it was originally and serves more as a weekly check-in. My wife’s therapy is also via Zoom and weekly.

    I think my wife would say the same as you with regards to my regrets, but I still struggle to accept how I could be that person in the first place. My therapy has revealed a lot about my previous mindset and has highlighted parental issues in the past, but it doesn’t excuse hurting my wife in the way I have. Her only crime was loving and trusting me unconditionally, and she is angry at herself for allowing this to happen to her. She tried to talk with me about this in the past and I lied and gaslit her. It’s just so horrible and I can’t believe I let myself down so much.
    moonesque likes this.
  8. This is important for your recovery process. It is probably the most important stage because it creates the mind/body integration of cause and effect. Emotional processing is essential to our learning. You must experience the pain of remorse in order to have lasting desire for recovery. Without suffering we simply don’t or can’t truly be molded by an experience.

    Im an artist and a highly sensitive person, and i ran away from being aware of my feelings for a long time, which really quickly became physical problems and eventually disease. Now, i have been better about feeling my feelings. As tedious and uncomfortable as it is sometimes, it really helps everything to just move along at a more natural healthy pace. Sometimes i even give myself time to really “wallow” in my feeling in private, find songs that understand me in that and listen to them with a wide open heart which often leads to tearing up or elation or some other breakthrough once i have “felt it out” and my body has done its own simultaneous processing through singing the lyrics of a song or yelling in a pillow, sobbing in the shower, etc. Its helped me so much to see it this way. Tears are ok, its like my eyes are pooping out my hurt. Taking time to yourself to really wallow in the mistakes and remorse may give you a breakthrough, too. Maybe your body needs to feel it out, reconnect on a physical level with the painful experience your wife had and reprogram that memory with actual relevance/emotion. This is how you will be a better partner, because now you are reliving the experiences your addiction had you asleep throgh. Had you been awake and present, it would have hurt you as it did her. Youre simply getting caught up so you can apply those experiences to your life here on out.

    It wont be a permanent thing, so really dive in and get the most you can out of this part of the process. The more it hurts, the more your recovery will matter to you and the more you will be able to understand your wife’s trauma, which will enable you to make choices that restore security and trust in the relationship. It takes time, so find a way to love the process. You are alive! We are here to learn And guess what? This is you radiating purpose and meaning into your life. It hurts, its difficult, its amazing and beautiful too. Open your eyes up to the WHOLE of existing. What a strange and yet intriguing thing it is to be human.
  9. That said, i agree that finding forgiveness for yourself is not really an important goal right now. That may happen in the future once the guilt or lack of forgiveness for yourself no longer serves a purpose.....but for now, how will it help anything for you to forgive yourself? Do you think your wife has forgiven you? Has she transferred that blame to herself? Stay present as possible in this because you are still just beginning to understand the reality. Part of that is ending the habit of always seeking to escape discomfort. Try something else, try seeking out the discomfort and it might exhaust itself.
    SequinHistory likes this.
  10. SequinHistory

    SequinHistory Fapstronaut

    Thanks for your post. I agree with you. I suppose looking for forgiveness in myself isn’t really my goal, as the guilt is definitely keeping me motivated and on track. I suppose I feel like my guilt has drained me of personal motivation recently, and I want to get back on track. Like you mentioned, I’ve been wallowing in the pain I’ve caused my wife. It sounds like self-pity but it feels different this time. This time it’s not shame, it’s guilt and remorse for the things that I have done which were wrong. I want to be everything I should have been before but recently I’ve been finding it hard to do anything. I haven’t been sleeping well and have been pretty much just writing in my journal and posting on NoFap. Like you mentioned, it’s just something that’s going to take time to come to terms with. My pain is nothing in comparison to what my wife is going through, and i need to remember that.

    Thanks to you, @Psalm27:1my light @kropo82 and @Les_Brown for the advice. It’s always appreciated. :)
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  11. moonesque

    moonesque Fapstronaut
    NoFap Defender

    I can relate a lot to your description. I've been moving back and forth between really making efforts and changes throughout my lifestyle and mindset and then falling into this lethargy from a type of wallowing. I know somewhere that just sitting with guilt, digesting it and letting that be okay and holding onto how I care about my girlfriend, recovery, and how I want to act at the same time will be how I can continue in a healthy way. I think something difficult for me and perhaps you might find this useful since you pointed to some similar findings for yourself, is trying to remember that while you feel guilty you feel that way because of a positive value too, perhaps love or commitment or just respect/honesty etc depending on the situation. When I realize this at the same time it sorta speeds up the whole process, a long time ago I could go months feeling guilty and never working on anything, but the quicker you actually realize (not just tell yourself) that you have more feelings than guilt, it starts to speed life up again. Guilt is that other side saying that something I did was wrong, but wrong because I wanted something else. Easier said than done of course, to really do this is something I'm working on, I want to give up my wallowing. That whole negativity started my coping habits in the first place in life. Hope you don't mind my sharing and that something there could help.
  12. That is a great post, moonesque. Thanks for providing the necessary contrast from a much more helpful perspective.

    i really love coming here and even when i feel like i have a bunch of shit to say or advice to give, i end up taking away a lot more information and insight than i brought.
  13. SRGTMeowz

    SRGTMeowz Fapstronaut

    I am brand new here and have hopped around the different forums . I still don't understand how to get the most understand of everyone's stories and history yet .
    However with that being said your story hit me like a freight train. I have been lying and self preserving my habits. I have not made it to your enlightenment but I want to. Your posts and responses have been aan absolute inspiration !
    I have regret and self-disgust because of my brain and my personal choices. I feel these things but sometimes I bury it. I feel these things and sometimes I cope with masturbation (the quick fix to all my problems). I feel these things and need more stories like yours.
    I appreciate your honesty.
    To me you are a a good human.
    Try not to hate yourself because your heart is now in the right place...
    Just be better than that guy you were at the beginning and month ago and a day ago and even before you read my blip.
    I believe in you .
    Please don't stop sharing and maybe you can help me get through this too .
  14. Randy Andy

    Randy Andy Fapstronaut

    Wow what a great topic, thanks so much for bringing it up and sharing to start the conversation off.

    Probably the most important thing in my recovery is the idea of the addict. I try not to say "the most important thing" if it isn't true so a lot of my posts say "one important thing" or "a useful idea" but this actually has been the most important thing, and luckily it relates directly to what you brought up in your original post.
    There's a voice in my head that talks about negative things a lot. One if its favorite topics is selfish-thinking-about-sex (the single word lust can be useful and efficient, any fantasy or desire). It just goes on and on about sex this sex that. I thought that was me, that I was thinking about sex all the time. It sure seemed like something I would do :). Then I had a few hundred times that I was thinking about kinds of sex I didn't want to be thinking about, and times I was clicking on pornography that I honestly didn't want to see. I had decided years before that I was a bad person, kind of "if you really knew me you wouldn't like me". I don't know if it ever would have occurred to me not to believe everything that I thought and believe that it was me thinking it so I came to the obvious conclusion that I had been right all along about being bad. I couldn't fit "doing it" and "don't want to do it"logically together in my head so I figured I must be dishonest with myself and or willfully bad. After years of increasing desire to stop and more and more efforts to stop that thinking got threadbare.
    So when I started recovery and meet someone who'd been happily abstinent for six years (now fifteen, no fudges) who said "listen for the voice of the addict. Don't listen to it but listen for it.". It changed my life. With attention I could hear my head saying "you know you want to _____" insert dirty sex act here :). Why would it need to say "you". I thought that was me in my head, so why would I address myself as you? And I noticed that a lot of the thoughts were uncomfortable, such as the one about sex, anger, how bad things were going to happen, and all the myriad ways I was a fundamentally bad person. These things didn't make me happy, I couldn't get them to stop or change, and I didn't plan on having these thoughts. They seem to happen to me.
    Anyone reading is probably wondering what's the point. That might be the addict talking :). Point is there a very real sense in which I didn't do those things I did. I will be there first to say they were terrible and I still get to take responsibility for them and I get the acceptance and self forgiveness of "I was unconscious so the addict got to push me around. Thank goodness I'm awake now cause that was terrible shit.". I get the consequences, including inside myself just the unhappiness of having to act out plus the uncomfortable feeling of being out of control plus on and on. And in acceptance that can be more ok than in non acceptance. Accepatance doesn't mean approval nor inaction. Thank goodness it doesn't mean approval because if I did something bad because I wasn't watching the addict and then I accept that thing approval would mean let's do it again. That would suck. But these priciples, acceptance and forgiveness, are letting go processes. Less about surviving acting and checklists and getting the plan just right and more about just giving up what I'm holding onto. Although for shame or any kind of "I shouldn't have" I have found it useful to inventory what is blocking me, and one method for that is Byron Katie's method of investigation thoughts. One example that comes up for me (used to come up often now it's only sometimes) would be to question the thought "I don't want to be a sex addict". There a whole process to it and I'm tempted to jump to the punchline because I'm having fun with it as I look at it for myself now but I don't think that would help. Maybe it will help to know someone else has days when he doesn't want to be an addict and it doesn't have to get a lot of our mental energy. The real question isn't whether I want something to be true but just is it true it not. If so what do I do about it? See how acceptance can lead to action. Non acceptance I just spin my wheels.
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  15. Randy Andy

    Randy Andy Fapstronaut

    Oh and giving up wifaholism, which I have some little progress but it's still very much in process. If I'm not ok when she's not ok I'm like a leaf blown in the wind.
  16. SequinHistory

    SequinHistory Fapstronaut

    That means a lot to me so thank you for sharing. I can definitely relate to what you’ve said and you sound like you’ve already got the right mindset for true change.

    Recently I have started my own journal and you’re more than welcome to read and respond to it if you’d like to! I’ll be posting everyday, sometimes more than once. I find a lot of inspiration in @JamesTheSquirrel and @kropo82’s journals as well so definitely check them out.

    It took me until Day 169 to start a public journal but I’ve found it really helps and I would recommend that you start one too. We’re on your side and believe in you too!
  17. SequinHistory

    SequinHistory Fapstronaut

    Thanks for taking the time to share. You’ve hit the nail on the head and I’ll look into Byron Katie’s method of investigative thoughts in more detail!

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