“After 45 years of happy marriage I’ve found out my husband visits prostitutes. Do we have a future?” Proper Advice Below

For almost 45 years I have been happily married to the same man (we are in our 60s) and have a married son and daughter and four grandchildren.  

But three weeks ago I found out that for the past five years my husband has been visiting a massage parlour about three or four times a year.

He tells me he has never had full sex, but that they have performed other sexual acts on him.

My husband is a good husband and father but for the past six years or so has not shown me much affection, especially in the bedroom.

Up until then we always had good sex then he told me he didn’t have the same urges.

I assured him it was not just about sex, but I needed love. I often told him that I felt he just had brotherly love for me.

I occasionally cuddled up to him but then I just felt he didn’t want me. He was even prescribed Viagra from the doctor, then made the excuse that his blood pressure was high.

I am writing to you because I have no one I can speak to.

I don’t want to confide even to my best friend (I’ve known for 60 years) because of the shame of it all and I don’t want my family to find out.

Why do I want to protect this man who has deceived me? He tells me he loves me and has never stopped loving me and wants us to stay together.

He is totally remorseful and very upset at what he has done to me and wants us to get back to how things were before this all happened.  

I am absolutely shocked, devastated, jealous and heartbroken and cannot believe his deceit.

I think about what has happened every minute of the day and how he prefers these other women to me.

Do you think there is a future for us? At this moment in time I feel I will never forgive him or get over it.
This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail.

My thoughts:

What you don’t say is interesting. It would be tempting to change the first sentence to ‘I thought I was happily married’ because what comes next, with the massage parlour, suggests that an illusion was shattered. I suspect you knew things were going on in secret since you say you ‘found out’ (how, I wonder) and that you had been feeling neglected for some time, in fact for years. Thinking that your husband has only ‘brotherly love’ for you and feeling rejected in terms of cuddles, sex and love is not being happily married. So your first sentence, and perhaps then some (at least) of your marriage is a lie. It’s the propaganda you want others to believe (you’re ashamed to tell the truth to your friends) and that you work very hard to believe yourself.

You continue here with an attempt to brush this under the carpet and to fit it in with the happy marriage ideal. He has done some wheedling and told you that anything less than full sex and ‘three or four times a year’ [please] is less of a big deal. You want to believe him but you don’t believe him. ‘Other sexual acts’ leaves a lot of room for imagination. It sounds as though he has tried to convince you that this isn’t as bad as it could be. You’re writing to an agony aunt partly in the hope that your charade can be maintained – ‘Oh, lots of men do this. He’s sorry, he loves you, it will all be fine.’

Then you go on to blame yourself, albeit obliquely. He in himself is marvelous, you say, a good father and husband, but not in the bedroom, with the unspoken suggestion that this might be your fault somehow. You describe the humiliation of the Viagra that you perhaps forced him to ask for (though you don’t say). In one sentence you say he is a good husband but that he consistently rejected you and made you feel awful. If he was a good husband and you were a good wife what could possibly be really wrong, you seem to ask.

The feeling that there is nobody for you to talk to is desperately sad and you are clear about how terrible you feel about the shock and betrayal. You ask why you want to protect him by keeping the secret, but I think you really want to protect yourself. If you tell people then the happy marriage charade is really shattered. If you can cover it up perhaps you can carry on regardless. Although you think about it all the time, you seem to feel that you are not allowed to behave badly, to tell people, to scream and shout and storm out. It seems you want to find a way of explaining it away so that you can go back to your pretence – you do not want to face this for what it is and you’re asking for assistance in not facing it, I think.

It has obviously been extremely important to you to be a perfect family and to ignore the fault lines that must have been there for a very long time. My suspicion is that you grew up feeling the need to put on a display of perfection for the outside world to cover up for things that were not right at home (very possibly with your father since that is what is being reenacted here).

Your husband’s been found out and has tried to play it down, all remorse and promises, wanting it to go back to how it was before (where you kept the pretence up and he visited prostitutes unmolested). How did you find out about this though? Did you have suspicions and investigate to confirm them? If so, what you say has been a happy marriage has involved your not trusting him and yet being unable to talk to him about it. You must wonder if he is now telling the truth, but you will also have to decide what is true for you – do you want to stay married to a guy who goes to a massage parlour for blow jobs on a regular basis? Or not?

It is not for any agony aunt or therapist to tell you whether or not your marriage has a future. Your fantasy marriage certainly has no future (and may not have a real past either), but whether or not you feel you can create a new and truthful relationship with this man who does this kind of stuff is something you will have to think about. You say you don’t think you’ll ‘get over it’ and that is of course true. You may be able to think about it together, to accept it and to create something more truthful or you may not be able to. What you will not be able to do is what you want to do most – make it go away and keep on with the happy family display.

Proper Advice via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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“Shall I leave my wife and daughter for my girlfriend?” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Viewpoint

“My wife and I are in our early 30s  –  married for more than nine years with a little girl of two. Over the past two years, I have realised that we have grown apart  –  both mentally and physically  –  and we no longer have anything in common. I feel I should continue with our marriage for the sake of our child and also because I’d feel sorry to leave my wife.

I have been seeing someone else for a while and everything I miss in married life is fulfilled by this relationship. My unfaithfulness has brought a strange balance to my married life, as well as to the other person’s marriage. I’m almost certain that myself and my girlfriend were meant for each other in many ways. These feelings are mutual  –  and have developed over a few years. We share this wonderful affinity that we’ve both been missing for a long time in our marriages. But we have no control over the future and I don’t know where we could end up.

This relationship is not why my marriage is failing  –  in fact, it’s made me see things about myself and marriage in a different way. I think my marriage has failed largely because of a natural progression (which I think many married people experience today), though I am aware my infidelity has been a factor.

The question ‘Were we meant to mate for ever?’ comes to my mind when I use the term ‘infidelity’.What do you think? People keep advising me to work on my marriage  –  but I don’t feel there’s anything left to work on. I think we have drifted too far apart. I can’t think of any similarities between us at all.

My philosophy in life has taught me to be concerned about our journeys and worry less about our destinations, but I’m also aware that every action has a reaction and am concerned about everyone’s future here  –  especially my daughter’s.

I do love my wife, but I’m not in love with her any more. I don’t think I will ever be. As much as I feel sorry to leave her, I feel that there is no good reason for us to continue as husband and wife. The only reason for us to continue with this marriage is for our child. But is that enough?

I feel I am denying myself if I stay. Please help me, my wife and our little girl.
This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail

My thoughts:

Firstly, it is fascinating that you wrote to the Daily Mail with this problem. You must have known very well what the advice would be. No Daily Mail columnist is going to advise you to leave your wife and family unless there is very serious abuse going on. This strongly suggests that you want someone to tell you to call off the affair and stay. It suggests that you already know what you are going to do and require a strict mother to tell you to do the right thing morally. In turn, this tells us that you have a strict internal moral code, a powerful super ego, apparently embodied by your mother, since you wrote your letter to someone who is, in fact, a grandmother herself.

You ask for help for your family, you do not ask for advice about how best to leave. This whole letter sounds like an argument with your mother – she is a strict Mail-reading person with strong views about marriage and family. With her in mind (and she is, I think, very much in your mind) your ideas sound wishy-washy and you seem to know it. Philosophy, journey, destination, meant for each other, not in love any more, mate for life.

Between your lines your mother/super ego/Mail columnist can almost be heard shouting hers. “The ONLY reason to stay married is for your small child? Is that not reason enough, young man!” she chides. Your own uncertain voice can hardly get into the debate, tentatively suggesting that your girlfriend gives you what your marriage cannot, but then, fearful of the fantasy matriarch’s reaction, you immediately say you aren’t sure, of course, what the future would bring you if you did leave your current spouses for each other.

So, apart from this rather boyish argument with a domineering mother, your way of talking about both your relationships is strikingly odd. Neither wife nor girlfriend sound very human. There is a strangely abstract quality to the way you describe them and it seems to suggest that both women are somehow symbolic in your mind. One represents a very romantic uncertainty, a kind of breathless suggestion of the forbidden, the impossible, but incredibly tantalizing. It is the uncertainty and the forbidden nature of the relationship that seems to attract you. ‘Meant for each other’ takes the whole thing into a supernatural realm.

This leaves the poor, denigrated wife/mother/’mate’ (!) figure failing at every turn. You have nothing in common (except the glaring fact of a child – my Daily Mail voice) and, most importantly, the future IS relatively certain. This is your life, your choice of partner, your future and, by extension, your death. You would hardly be the first person to have an affair as a defence against annihilation, but my suspicion is that if you do leave your wife and marry your girlfriend she will quickly fall into the denigrated ‘mate’ (gorilla?) role and you’ll be on the look out for uncertainty and supernatural immortality all over again.

Your affair is a rebellion against your moralistic and suburban mother and, perhaps, father, represented by your girlfriend’s discarded husband. Until you sort out your feelings towards your actual mother and come to terms with your inevitable extinction (no easy task, admittedly) you seem likely to repeat the pattern whether you stay or go. Your letter asks permission to leave – permission you already know will not be granted by the mother/super ego, aka yourself.

 Proper Advice via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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“My wife is stressed and angry. I just stand and watch.” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Viewpoint

“My wife has an important and reasonably high-profile job which she enjoys, but it is causing her a lot of stress. Apart from lying awake at night fretting about things, her confidence has taken a knock and often basic situations become difficult. She worries about what to wear and is frequently late for work because she stares at her wardrobe for ages trying to decide. Her ability to shop has suffered and she often ends up buying something that is not right and so suffers even further. Packing for a business trip sometimes has her in tears. She can be short tempered it’s difficult to discuss things rationally. I am worried about her, as I cannot see how this state can be sustained.”

This first appeared in the Observer.

My Thoughts:

You are fascinatingly absent from your own letter. The only thing we know about you is that you are worried, not about yourself, apparently, but about someone else. How are we to find you in there? Where are you? You are observing this rather powerful, rather glamorous, but obviously unhappy woman. You feel helpless. Perhaps we have found you – a little boy, possibly brought up by mother alone or, at any rate, mother very dominant in the home, and feeling lost and unable to help this big, grand woman. Feeling castrated.

You are so unable to have needs and desires of your own, it seems, that if you are feeling worried you must express is at as anxiety on behalf of someone else. I agree with you – I cannot see how this state can be sustained. You are projecting all your anxiety into her.

You describe your wife’s issues in a way that makes it obvious that you are there as witness, observer. It sounds as though her misery is paramount in your mind, that you stand watching helplessly as she gets dressed and shops and packs. Again, the idea of a little boy watching is extremely strong. She is dressing and shopping and packing – she is preparing to leave you and yet she is distressed, you are only unhappy for her. It feels as though there is nothing you can do. You can’t find a way to speak to her because she, you say, is so upset that she won’t respond properly.

You are trying to speak rationally to her rather than trying to comfort her. I wonder why. I suspect it is because you know you can’t comfort her, you are a small child (in your mind) with little understanding of what is going on with her. You just want her to speak rationally to you so that you feel safe. It sounds to me as though you are an Oedipal child without a father to step in and set things straight – the Oedipal situation is real. You feel you really are supposed to be lover and protector of this powerful and adored woman but you do not have the equipment on any level, being only a child. The woman is deeply unhappy about this. You are, therefore, utterly helpless and desperate.

The letter is fascinating as regards your state of mind and your absolute denial of it, inability to see it. And yet you have written. So there must be a chink of understanding that what seems to be going on is not what is really going on. Your wife sounds as if she is indeed facing a crisis and needs your support and perhaps also some professional support. However, what you are writing about is, I think, your own feelings of castrated helplessness which stem, I would guess, from a childhood in which the situation you describe with your wife was very familiar. In reality you are now a grown man who can help. But you need to find that out somehow.

Proper Advice in private via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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“My husband is negative and I am positive. How can I change him?” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

“I have been living with my partner for 22 years. He is a lovely man but a negative person, and I don’t understand it. Everything is about mortality and ageing, traffic, too many friends coming over, will we make our flight etc. I love him and he is one of the loveliest men I know, but he can’t seem to live in the moment. I am younger than he is by a few years, but I don’t understand the negativity and the propensity to think that life really is a crock. We have a great life, great friends and family – what’s not to love? I am a positive person, I enjoy life, but sometimes I feel like I’m in a bubble and he doesn’t get me or what I am. Trust me, I try to be the understanding spouse, but sometimes it gets me so down I want to run away.

We both know so many positive, lovely people, and it is a real treat to have them in our lives, but I don’t understand why he feels this way.”

 

This letter appeared first in The Observer

 My thoughts:

There is something perfectly formed about this letter. It is a classic example of the ‘I’m fine, but someone else is rubbish’ letter. You end by saying; ‘I don’t understand why he feels this way,’ as though the whole letter really is about him, though these are not his feelings, they are your conscious feelings about his feelings. You haven’t asked for help in understanding yourself and nor do you think you need any understanding whatever – the need is all in him.

This is precisely the function of his negativity – to reflect well on you. If all the fears and anxieties about (by the sounds of it) the whole universe are in him then you can maintain your happy-go-lucky front, never have a care in the world and simultaneously accuse him of being miserable. You have projected your fears into him and he has received your projections, but the result of this is that you are left feeling a bit empty (‘like I’m in a bubble’).

There is a tiny chink of hope for self-awareness here in a) the fact that you have written for help even though you aren’t able to admit that you personally need help and b) the admission that he may not be able to understand you (ie. that you feel lonely) and that you get ‘so down I want to run away’.

The subtext of this letter is that you are unhappily married to someone who you fear doesn’t understand you and that you sometimes want to leave him. So forbidden are these thoughts that you have spun a very odd-sounding story to hide them. You feel, I think, that your life with your husband is so perfect that you are mean and ungrateful for being unhappy.

Instead of allowing yourself to say ‘we are just very different people’, you say instead that there is a big problem in him that needs to be fixed. So, not only have you projected any anxiety about the world into him, but you have also projected The Problem into him such that you can address it in him, solve it in him and never have to face yourself and your own issues.

You hope that if he could be helped to ‘live in the moment’ you would be able to live fully with him outside your ‘bubble’. You state that he is older than you as an attempt to explain his negativity. It doesn’t, but what it may explain is his role in your mind as a father figure. (I do wonder whether you were mainly raised by your father, which might explain why the idea of leaving, of being ungrateful to your husband feels so taboo, but this is a wild guess).

Husband is worrying dad, making sure you are on time for the plane, making sure there isn’t too much washing up to do, fearing for the safety of both of you. This frees you up to be absolutely unencumbered child, skipping about with friends and wondering what he’s so morose about. The trouble is that, having assigned these roles, you find you lack an adult partner and are lonely. I strongly suspect he’s lonely too.

You say you are tempted to ‘run away’, again a very child-like desire – running away from home. (The 22 years is interesting – in a way, if he is a father figure, about time you left home). What this would mean in reality though is splitting up, negotiating a divorce settlement, telling friends and facing the idea of having separate friends and the pain of forging separate lives. However, in your mind you would just run away and leave all the agonising to him.

It may be that you are so different in your world outlooks that you are not right for each other. It may be that you could discuss your loneliness honestly, look at your roles in the relationship honestly and talk about them without blaming and accusing him.

Either way, looking at what you are really up to, why you find it so difficult to face your own fears and anxieties and must hand them over to a father figure, is the only way forward, either alone or with your current partner.

Proper Advice via Skype or Email: anna@blundy.com

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“When I got pregnant my husband got addicted to a computer game.” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

My husband and I are both in our late 30s. We had the perfect relationship. Talked for hours, enjoyed going out for meals, watching films and just cuddling on the sofa. We married four years ago and until the birth of our son, that was the happiest day of my life.

Early last year  –  it must have been just after I fell pregnant  –  my husband started playing an online computer game.

Now his attention to me/us has waned, while his attention to this blasted game has increased. I think he’s addicted  –  the first thing he does in the morning is play, which makes him late for work.

When he gets home, after a cuddle with the baby, he is back on it, constantly playing until bedtime.

Quite often, I go to bed but he stays up until the early hours. He doesn’t help with the baby  –  not making food or bottles (he will give him a bottle if I make it, but not at a critical part of the game) and hardly ever feeds him or changes a nappy.

I do it all. I love my son, but I do resent my husband for not helping out even a little bit. We don’t talk any more because he’s usually ‘busy’ online. When we went on holiday he had to leave his laptop behind, but someone else ‘babysat’ his game, so he texted to see how it was going.

Yet when I had a stinking cold, he didn’t once text me from work to ask how I felt. He doesn’t do anything to help at home, and if I remind him to do something he says I’m nagging. Anything that takes him away from the game is unacceptable to him.

At the weekend, he can be playing from the moment he gets up until the time he goes to bed. If we have people over, he sits and plays the game while they’re there, and even plays while he eats. One day our internet connection went down and he was like an addict without a fix  –  ranting and raging and swearing.

As I sit here now, all I can hear is the clack of one key he seems to press every other second. The very sound sets my teeth on edge. I won’t even bother attempting a conversation because it’s pointless; so after I have sent this cry for help to you, I’ll probably sit and read a book until bedtime.

I have tried to talk about it in a light way, and in a serious way, but he will not accept that what he’s doing is detrimental to our relationship. I actually think the game is the centre of his life now, and not me and not even our son. I feel very lonely and I miss the man I used to know.

This problem first appeared in the Daily Mail

My Thoughts:

The diagnosis here is relatively straightforward, but the solution, as ever, is likely to be far more difficult. Obviously, and you hint at it throughout, your husband is chronically jealous first of your pregnancy and now of the baby himself. The baby is the centre of your life and the game is the centre of his. Your ability to bear a child seems to be what sparked off his envy and his subsequent obsession with this game. From what you say, I gather this game (which needed ‘babysitting’) is a game that develops – a long game. So, as your body created a child, he began his creation as a counter move.

His absolute dedication to his game, the need to nurture it and in some way ‘feed’ it all the time suggests very strongly that he sees it as his child. His real child, who he views as yours alone, is being neglected. He will be replaying something from his own childhood, very possibly being usurped in his mother’s affection by a younger sibling. However, this is all psychopathologising him and he has not written to ask anyone for help – you have. Indeed, he doesn’t need help as far as he is concerned. He is narcissistically self-sufficient, playing God in the world of his game – not being usurped by anyone or anything.

But what are you up to? This is much harder to discern because the letter is all about him. A lot of problem letters are like this – ‘Some other person is a nightmare, what shall I do?’ Or, ‘How can I tell what someone else is thinking and why they behave as they do?’ Of course, these two questions are a complete abdication of responsibility, an attempt on the writer’s part to claim they, blameless and angelic, are being buffeted by cruel fate. This is never true. So, what is going on?

The first red flag is the claim that you had ‘the perfect’ relationship. Nothing is perfect, so if you idealized the relationship to this extent it was bound to crash down. The relationship you describe is one of being entirely wrapped up in each other with no need of anyone else. (You only use two lines and perhaps the picture is incorrect but, still, this is what you chose to relate). It may well be that you formed an isolated and narcissistic unit with your husband, one in which you were each addicted to the other and needed no other sustenance. So, when a third person came into the equation things began to fall apart.

You say your wedding day was the happiest day of your life until the birth of your son. So, in your mind the birth of your son was very separate from the union with your husband and, perhaps, having been addicted to and dependent on your husband, you transferred this dependence to your son. Meanwhile, your husband, having been addicted to you, transferred his to the game.

I suspect that he has always been an addict but that he became addicted to you (perhaps this was mutual). Once he was rejected he began to inhabit an entirely separate world. I suspect that he was always very needy and that you selected him for that quality – you liked being needed and playing mother to this childish man and you felt secure because he needed you so much. Now you have a real baby and need this man to grow up, to change, to become someone else. He can’t because he always wanted to be the baby and you liked mothering him.

It may be that your own fear of being dependent directed you to choose a partner who depended solely on you. That puts you in power. Perhaps your relationship itself was a fantasy ‘perfect’ world in which he could immerse himself. Now he has been thrown out of paradise in favour of a baby. You are baffled by his behaviour but he may well be baffled by yours – you now love another man more than you love him and he is not grown up enough to cope.

 

I imagine that he is giving you a taste of what he experienced when a younger sibling was born – a mother engrossed in another world with not a second to spare for him.Not that this is any kind of solution to your problem, but I imagine that you too are playing a role. Being a beleaguered mother might well be you imitating your own mother. If you can be the harassed and exhausted person who is unsupported then you do not have to be the child (that you perhaps were) hoping in vain for some attention. Your husband is now in that role and, while this is a nightmare for you, it serves the purpose of protecting you from being the needy child yourself, a role you would reject as fearfully as he does.

Your cry for help goes to a newspaper columnist. You have tried to persuade your husband that he is in the wrong, that he is damaging the relationship. You have not, by the sounds of it, told him you are sad and lonely, that you miss him. You show him the anger but not the vulnerability – and he is doing the same.

 Proper Advice via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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“Should I move to New Zealand and leave my baby son in Norway?” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

I fell in love with a Norwegian girl four years ago and she became pregnant soon after. I moved to Norway, had a child and generally struggled with the way of life here. At the beginning of this year she left me. I live in shared accommodation in Oslo to be near my son. I still love her and asked her to get back with me – her reply was that she was not ready for a relationship, with me or anyone else. When we meet, I detect she is happier now than she ever was when we were together. I am here in Norway, without accommodation and no real sense of belonging, unable to sleep properly. I am starting to long for warmer climes where I have friends and a lifestyle more suited to my character. The problem is that the destination is New Zealand. I feel a sense of dread, guilt and worthlessness that this would mean I would see my son once a year. Should I sacrifice my own happiness just to be around my son as he grows up?

This problem appeared first in the Observer.

My Reply:

Hmm. It’s a fascinating first line. The fact that you say ‘fell in love’ and that you describe your partner as ‘a Norwegian girl’ makes it all sound very romantic and somehow out of your control. ‘Fell in love with’ is very different from ‘started a relationship with’. Her being a ‘girl’ makes her sound young, at least in your eyes, feeding your idea that this was a carefree time when things just seemed to happen.

 Then ‘she became pregnant.’ Again there is a feeling that there was nothing you could have done about this, a bit like ‘fell in love’. This is something she did or that happened to her. So, as a result of having been buffeted by fate, you moved to Norway and found yourself to be unhappy there. ‘Struggled with the way of life’ is an odd way to put it. Presumably you could have chosen your own way of life wherever you found yourself but again, very passively, it sounds as though you tried to fit in with a life that you had not forged for yourself, that just happened to you. It seems hard for you to say you felt sad, lost, helpless. Instead you feel hard done by.

 Then the Norwegian girl acts again, leaving you – you don’t say why, what went wrong. Again, just out of the blue as if you were no part of the relationship. You feel very sorry for yourself, something we can see in the ‘shared accommodation…to be near my son’. So, now your son is dictating how you should live, forcing you to live in a way you feel you haven’t chosen. You don’t say ‘I want to be near my son’ or give the impression that you enjoy spending time with him.

Though you were already struggling in Norway, you made another bid to stay and were refused – again this feeling that you are organised by others, that no choice is really your own. It was a kind of fate that you ended up shackled to her and now it is her choice not to continue in the relationship. The result is that you feel homeless, lost and unable to sleep. It sounds as though you are highly anxious, stressed and suffused with a sense of loss that you don’t face head on. Your passivity and the sense that you are not in control seems to make you feel very confused.

‘I am here in Norway’ sounds as though you are surprised to find yourself there, somewhere you don’t belong. It is cold and you long for warmth. By the sounds of it, your ex is cold and you long for human warmth. You feel rejected by the whole country, the whole way of life (your early home life?). My strong suspicion is that you have never felt the love and warmth you hoped to find by creating your own family, one that would give you what you didn’t get in childhood. Instead, you have ended up re-enacting something more familiar. I wonder if you feel you might meet someone in New Zealand who will provide the love and warmth you have always lacked, if perhaps your true self is there (ie. elsewhere).

It sounds as though you feel completely worthless – your ex-girlfriend seems happier without you, your son perhaps doesn’t need you. The way you say ‘just to be around my son’ sounds as though you don’t really feel necessary to him, that you would be there for your own gratification rather than because you feel you have something to offer him.

There is clear resentment in ‘just to be around my son’ as though you have been cornered by fate, your own needs denied. It seems you feel usurped in your ex’s affections by your son, thrown out of the family home and left all at sea.

Going to New Zealand is a ‘didn’t want to come to your party anyway’ message to both your ex and your son. Unless you can try to understand why you feel so helpless, so managed by others and so rejected, you are likely to recreate the same scenario again in New Zealand. I suspect that this is either Oedipal material (you felt usurped by your father in your mother’s affections and left out in the cold after the honeymoon period of very early infancy), a sibling rivalry thing (new baby casts you out) or, perhaps, you were brought up by a single mother who then found a partner and left you feeling isolated and thrown into some kind of student accommodation (Boarding school? University?).

Obviously, these are wild guesses but you seem to scream;‘None of this is my fault! It just happened!’ without seeing that you, as the adult you now are, were making clear (if unconscious) choices all along. I suspect that leaving will increase your feelings of worthlessness and being unwanted (though it is designed to do the opposite) rather than forcing you to look them in the eye and prevent your son from growing up feeling as rejected, worthless and as devoid of choice as you do.

Proper Advice in private via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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“I am gay. Why can’t I kick start my relationship with my wife?” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

At the age of 29 I was totally in love and knew I’d found the girl I wanted to marry. We had careers and so on, but finally married when I was 40 and she was 35.

By the time I’d reached 49, I felt that something was missing in our sex life but, because of my deep love for my wife, I couldn’t tell her.

In time, I discovered that I am gay. But I’ve been battling with my sexuality because I love my wife and feel very protective of and responsible towards her.

I have been to counsellors, psychiatrists, hypnotists, joint counselling and everything else. We did try living apart eight years ago, but I was made redundant and circumstances brought me back home to my wife again.

Though we no longer sleep in the same room, we have just slipped back into a happy, married state, but more one of companionship. My wife seems to be happy with this, so why can’t I?

We have a lovely home and possessions and do nice things together. But about two years ago I met a guy at football and everything resurfaced. Yet again, I have tried counsellors. My wife and I have been jointly to a psychiatrist and have agreed that perhaps we should go our separate ways.

We put our house on the market, but then got cold feet and took it off. Even though I accept I am gay, I have tried so hard to make the marriage work.

I’m empty and sad, but feel I have a responsibility to my wife and must ensure her needs are met before mine. She tells me she still loves me and I still love her.

I did not ask for these sexual feelings and she says she understands. But she keeps telling me how hurt she is and that she never thought I would do this to her, which makes me realise that she thinks I have chosen this.

She thinks I am abandoning her and that adds more guilt.

I’m scared of so many things, as she is, too, I’m sure, and that’s why we are clinging on to each other. This is destroying my brain, but she can’t see that.

I need to put her first even if I am unhappy for the rest of my life. She has an ability to put things in compartments or sweep them under the carpet, which is something I cannot do.

My present state of mind is  making me depressed, but I really need to resolve this issue with as little hurt to my wife  as possible.

Why can’t my wife and I  kick-start our relationship? What does she want from me? How does she feel? She never tells me!

I feel so alone and isolated. What shall I do?

This letter appeared first in the Daily Mail

My Response:

The ages that you immediately relate are interesting. Though you met your wife when you were 29 and say you were ‘totally’ in love, you waited 11 years to get married. I suspect there was already something holding you back. Nine years later you ‘discovered’ that you are gay but you have tried to repress your sexuality because you seem to feel you should ‘protect’ your wife (from yourself?) and that your responsibility towards her involves not being yourself. It sounds as though you feel paternal towards her, as though she is helpless and dependent, and it is apparent that this is not a relationship between two open equals.

However, the paternal attitude is, I think, a defence against the reality of the situation – that this is actually a mother/son relationship in which you, not she, are hopelessly dependent, a replay of which you tried to avoid by choosing a younger partner. You say you tried to cure yourself of yourself (feeling that as you are you are shameful and not good enough). Then, inevitably failing, you split up but soon came back to your wife (mother?) when you lost your job. You now sound like a guilty and burdensome son who resents having moved back home but somehow had to. It is significant that you say your wife ‘seems to be happy’ with the separate rooms/companionship arrangement. You haven’t talked to each other about it fully, I gather.

You berate your wife for her unfair demands on you but you stress that the charade is a comfortable and somehow attractive, unsullied one (‘we do “nice things” together’ – ie. not sex). You expect the reader to join you in feeling she is unfair on you. And yet it is you who stays, who tries to change, who chooses punishment over freedom.

If, as you say, you are gay then the fact that you met a man and things ‘resurfaced’ is surely inevitable. Indeed, isn’t the reality of who you are the surface and the rest a façade? You are using your marriage and your wife to defend yourself against your own sexuality of which you are deeply ashamed. As far as I can make out your wife has not begged or forced you to stay with her – you keep coming back, keep trying to cure yourself of something that is apparently fundamental to you, and using your pity/duty towards your wife as an excuse not to face your own reality.

What is destroying your brain is your own desire to cling on to your wife and your need to avoid your sexuality. It may be that she is trying to make you feel guilty, but she can only succeed if the guilt is already there in you. You complain that she is demanding you put her first and be unhappy, that she is able to ignore the truth. This may true, but you are obeying her and you yourself are ignoring the truth and hiding your own shameful needs behind hers.

You say you are depressed, but you suggest that it is your wife’s demands on you that are causing your depression. If you were able to accept yourself and your sexuality you would not be using her as a punishing super ego. It seems to me that you are desperate to please and obey a rather authoritarian mother figure (I suspect your actual mother was such a figure, but I’m guessing) and that you feel denigrated and repressed when you do, but terrified of her annihilating rage when you don’t. You are attracted to men who do not seem to exert such a frightening influence on you and seem too weak (in your mind, of course) to combat the power of what masquerades as a happy, ordinary family but is, in reality, crushing you.

I suspect this is some sort of reenactment of early homelife – punishing mother, weak but attractive father and the charade of family life depending on everyone denying reality and obeying the rules.

You ask why you cannot kick start your relationship with your wife. Well, that’s an easy one – you are gay.

You are horribly isolated (by your own repression and denial) and ask what you should do. You very urgently need, for your own sake and for your wife’s, to find a therapist for yourself. Not joint therapy with her, not with a view to mending or addressing anything with her, but therapy that will help you to come to terms with yourself. If you can accept yourself without a terror of annihilation, you will be able to extricate yourself from what sounds life a dreadful situation. You are keeping up a façade and denying yourself – you must be exhausted and, as you suggest, very lonely. (As, indeed, must she).

Proper Advice in private via email or Skype: anna@blundy.com

 

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