I saw my husband last night. I went over for dinner, to get the pool in order (another thing that was “my “ domain), and to catch up with him on the Tour de France. We are cycling fans and had a ritual of checking in together every morning of the three cycling grand tours. (La Vuelta is my favorite by far!) He had been complaining that he missed this bit of togetherness, and I too, have noticed the Tour just hasn’t been the same without him. In the past we would sit with coffee, previewing that day’s stage route, picking who to root for (it always seemed to be Quintana), cursing the ass-grabbing Peter Sagan, etc. So last night we set out to catch up, but I think both of us were caught off guard by how bittersweet it was. We gave it a solid try, but both ended up in tears. He asked if I would listen to his painful feelings, something we have been doing a lot of. Since I was in a good frame of mind to do it, I agreed. He expressed a lot of pain and frustration about me “not understanding” that he loves me. This has been a common complaint from him and one I confess I don’t fully understand. I am trying. I swear. I think this might be a future topic for this journal if we ever sort it out. In any case, I had several thoughts about and reactions to his pain. Some are valid, one I’m not proud of, all are understandable. When we were in the thick of trying to acknowledge and come to terms with the addiction, I spent so much time trying desperately to figure out how to hurt him as much as he was hurting me. This was not because I am cruel or vindictive, but because in my own pain and denial, some part of my brain was screaming, “If he could only know how it felt, he would surely stop doing it. The ONLY reason a man who loves me would hurt me this way is because he just doesn’t know. Telling him in increasingly frantic voices has not worked, so maybe if I SHOW him….” I even posted here, asking addicts to please tell me what would make them feel pain equivalent to the pain they were causing their SO. What would inspire empathy? Several addicts in recovery said, in a word, “Nothing”. A feature of the disease is that the addict doesn’t feel – can’t empathize. It had never occurred to me, but now seemed obvious. AVOIDING EMPATHY/FEELINGS IS THE POINT. Other SOs told me stories of their own PAs, who, while in the throes of their addictions had even encouraged their wives to go out and sleep with other men. I was utterly deflated by the responses I got. Asking, reasoning, pleading,and crying had not worked. Trying to inspire empathy had been my last, frantic hope and now I had to abandon that path. He was still hurting me and could not/would not stop. Fast-forward a number of months and now I am at a place where, although I hope he has/will be able to eventually develop empathy, I no longer have the emotional investment in that outcome that I once had. So as I was listening to him relate his feelings of pain last night, I felt, at different times, the following: Deep compassion for his suffering, especially since he was now bearing it without the aid of his favorite coping mechanism - “Poor sweetie. I wish it would stop but I don’t have the power to make it. Just go ahead and cry. I have you.” A kind of cold detachment - “Yes, my dear. It is a pity that you could not address your addiction before it led to this regrettable but entirely predictable outcome. Asi es la vida.” An acknowledgement of the therapeutic potential of the pain - “Perhaps the memory of this moment will help inoculate you from future complacency.” And the one I am not proud of – “NOW do you know how it feels?! Now how ‘bout I lie to you and toy with you so that you feel like this every fucking day until your mind is gone and your body aches?” As he described his suffering, I cycled (no pun intended) through all these. Happily, I didn’t dwell or act on the last one. It's good to know that, even though I have come out of this a different person than I went in, at least I haven't developed the stomach for that.