Working the 12 steps is starting to get really real. That is such a cliche but so apt to where I am. I am about to start Step 8. As a quick reminder, Step 8 is as follows: We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Yeah. That Step 8. No other way to put it but damn.
I have been working on my list in my mind since I did Step 4, identifying my flaws and defects of character. I knew this was coming. There is one person at the top of my list. My wife. She is numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. She has her own list and the rest are secondary, including my kids. They are next. But first, its her.
As I was preparing for this list, I kind of discounted it. You know, its just a list and becoming willing. However, as my sponsor and counselor both pointed out to me, it is so much more. That whole becoming willing part. That’s more than just saying the words, making the list and then taking action.
For me, its been about understanding the true reasons for the amends. Why are the people on my list actually on my list? What did I do to give them that honored place on my amends list? I am being facetious. (That means sarcastic for you native Texans!)
Anyway, I was struggling with this. I identified the people who belonged there. The ones that I had lied to, manipulated, taken advantage of, used for my own selfish gains, not been engaged with, not been present with, and just had been mean and ugly and rude with. I had the reasons but I was struggling with connecting with those reasons. I didn’t really feel the impact. And then I did. I got it. Just from being with the first person on my list.
My wife and I were working through intimacy exercises. Just checking in on how we both felt, what we loved about each other, and then a devotional reading and prayer. She said something she said quite often and I had repeatedly dismissed. She said she couldn’t help but think that the reason I had relationships outside of our marriage and broke my sexual vow to her was because of how she looked, that she wasn’t pretty enough, that she was overweight. And I said the things I usually do, I told her that wasn’t true, she was beautiful, and it was all my fault. I said the words because I was hopeful it would stop her from getting triggered and would give her some comfort. The problem was, I didn’t really own it. I didn’t own WHY she felt that way.
I was talking with my counselor the next day, telling him about how she went to that place and that I was realizing that it was my fault. Being the supportive, loving, touchy-feely counselor that he is (again, sarcasm for you native Texans), he pointed out that it most definitely was my fault. And by allowing her to continue down that path, I was allowing her to take away my responsibility for my actions. They were my actions that caused that damage, that caused her to feel less than enough. That’s when I felt it, that’s when I owned it. It’s my responsibility. I am sorry, my love, for making you feel less than enough.