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
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).
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