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.
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.
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