The Burrito Story

The Burrito Story

It was a few months into my recovery journey. My wife and I were under a lot of pressure in life. The reality of my betrayal was heavy enough. Beyond that, there were other profound life difficulties. Through it all, I was determined to follow my recovery path. I realized that my entire self, my entire being, was in need of transformation.

This day, things were relatively calm. Tammy and I stood in line at Qdoba and waited to order. She gave that knowing look and asked “Should we get our burrito?” She said “our burrito” because for the past 10 years Tammy and I shared a burrito. It was a given at this point in our marriage we would order “our burrito.” We always did. But here’s the thing: it was not “our burrito.” No, the chicken fajita burrito is Tammy’s burrito. And this was the day I finally asked for “my burrito.”

Really, you’re going to tell a story about going out to eat? How’s that going to help me save my relationship and stay sober?

Something as little as asking for a burrito really is a big thing.

In his book, Worthy of Her Trust, Jason Martinkus makes a straight forward observation: “She can’t see what you’re not doing.” This plays out in the following conversation:

Her: “How can I trust you?” Him: “You can trust me because I’m not acting out anymore.” Her: “Really? Prove to me that you’re not looking at porn.” Him: “Well, I’m not looking at porn. The accountability software shows no suspicious websites.” Her: “But that software doesn’t monitor your work computer.” Him: “Well, I’m not.” Her: “What about masturbation. Prove to me you’re not masturbating.” Him: “I’m not doing that. So, how do you want me to prove what I’m not doing?” Her: “Exactly! You have no proof.”

Many guys stop giving into their addiction and immediately expect their wife to believe they are no longer acting out. Jason explains that rather than focusing on the things we aren’t doing, to earn trust we must give tangible evidence of things we are doing.

Many of the guys I work with get frustrated when they are doing all kinds of behavioral things, yet she still does not trust him. The reason behaviors carry little weight is that for years he was acting out behaviorally, then lying about it. Through that, he established that his behaviors are not consistent with who he claimed to be. It, therefore, makes sense that she does not trust his behaviors. So, what’s a guy to do? Change at the deepest levels. He needs to change not merely his behavior, but also the character and heart underlying that behavior. Things that signify personal growth, character change, and self-awareness are keys that lay the groundwork for trust.

This is why me asking for “my burrito” was such a significant thing: it signified a character change deep inside of me. Before life blew up, I was a people pleaser. I was a chameleon. I would tell people what I thought they wanted to hear. In so doing, I never took a stand for myself, because this would mean that I might offend someone else with what I wanted.

This played out in my relationship as well. On my good days, I would view myself as a servant. I would put my own desires on the back burner and instead focus on my wife’s desires (and pat myself on my back for being so sacrificial). On my bad days, I was a martyr. I never got what I wanted and I felt that she did not value me or paid attention to me and what I wanted. But in reality, how could she? I never showed up with what I wanted.

Underlying all of this was fear. My fears were rooted in others rejecting me. I had not done the work of finding value in myself beyond what others thought of me. Therefore, I shifted, cajoled, and manipulated others so that their impression of me gave me what I wanted—acceptance. But it was never enough. I never felt accepted, even when I gave them what they wanted to hear. I now know why. I was never accepted because I was never known. Even when I got all of the accolades I wanted, there was still a voice in the back of my head that dismissed it saying, “Sure, they like you, but if they knew the real you, they would reject you.” We are accepted only so far as we are known.

So, on that fateful day at Qdoba when I asked for my burrito, I was not just sharing a preference. I was demonstrating a core belief in myself—that I was worth being known and it was worth the risk for me to be known. In essence “my burrito” communicated that I was starting to believe I mattered, even beyond what anyone else thought of me. (To be sure, Tammy always believed I mattered and told me I mattered…this was my issue). My preference, my desires, and my self were important enough to stand up for. This sense of significance is huge in my recovery journey. To this day, Tammy will honor the work that continues in me by playfully saying “Good job asking for your burrito.”

What fears do you have in showing up fully in your authentic self? Do you seek approval yet feel as if it is never enough? What is the work that you need to do to establish your worth and value? How should you be asking for your burrito?

Blog Post by: Nathaniel Gustafson (click here to see more about Nathaniel)

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