I’m 59, amicably divorced from my wife, with whom I still live. We’re best friends and have no problems.
Four years ago, I met a wonderful German woman on the internet and visited her every fortnight.
Her daughter was then 12 and we grew fond of each other despite her initial hostility to her divorced mother having a new man.
Last February, I left their laptop logged into my emails and the daughter discovered that for three years I’d been on dating sites and met a couple of women.
I suppose I’d been wondering if there was anyone local to me, but half-heartedly because I truly adore Anya.
Her daughter went crazy and told Anya, who went mad too. She’s forgiven me but her daughter hasn’t. So we meet secretly for 24 hours once a month.
It was a stupid mistake on my part and I have been utterly devoted and faithful since, but the daughter refuses to forgive me and Anya is frightened she will find out.
I miss her daughter terribly and wonder why children/young adults cannot forgive mistakes. They make them too! Living with this is really screwing me up.
Another problem is this: my older brother has three daughters. Thirty years ago, the older one Hattie (who was 18) came to spend Easter with me — still single then.
We had a few drinks, went to our separate beds, then I invited her in to mine.
We were intimate but did not have intercourse. Next morning I was pleased that she seemed very happy and not embarrassed.
She went home and I rang every two weeks to chat with her. She was always fine. Then I did something really stupid — got drunk, wrote her a letter, posted it.
I have never recalled what I said, but when I visited the family two weeks later, Hattie refused to talk to me. Apparently, she told her sisters and mother that I had tried to rape her, which, of course, was a lie because she wouldn’t have waited six months to tell! I know it was the letter that triggered her reaction.
Since then the family has refused to talk to me — although my brother was perfectly civil at our mother’s funeral in 2003.
This separation from my family has caused me so much pain as I adored him and his girls.
I try to live with the fact that these people won’t forgive me, but it is so hard and has caused me huge distress, excessive drinking etc.
I have my drinking under control now, but live with this permanent cloud of sadness.
My mother taught me to be forgiving and compassionate towards those who make mistakes.
I guess that’s old fashioned now. Do I just have to carry on grinning and bearing the pain? You reap what you sow, and so on.
The things you bat away are interesting. We are supposed to see the ‘no problems’ line and ignore the fact that you still live with your ex-wife. This is the first very odd thing in your letter that you ask the reader to treat as normal. ‘See? I behave normally and everyone else goes nuts!’ is your pitch.
So, in the first line we meet a woman who is asked to accept a strange situation and not make a fuss about it. Maybe, as you suggest, she really does accept it. But do you tell her about your other relationships? It seems immediately as though women are by default people from whom secrets are kept. Your emphasis on forgiveness and your resentment about not getting any is extreme. The word comes up a LOT. I wonder what this is about.
Anya and her daughter then emerge. Somehow Anya’s daughter gets as much attention in your letter as Anya herself – in fact you talk about yourself and ‘the daughter’ growing fond of each other and don’t describe the relationship with Anya. Both of them went ‘mad’ ‘crazy’ when the daughter (not Anya) found out you had been dating other women.
Perhaps you are very understanding as to why a young girl might be protective of her mother, you just don’t mention it. But, what I hear, is you feeling absolutely innocent and unfairly accused. One might imagine you unconsciously wanted to be discovered and, therefore, left your emails open to be read. But, in fact, it seems more as though you really thought you had nothing to hide. You seem not to acknowledge the feelings of this girl at all and yet somehow she is pivotal to your letter. She doesn’t get a name, but it turns out you ‘miss her daughter terribly’. This in itself seems to be overstepping an ordinary boundary, since you were only visiting fortnightly.
The idea that you are baffled (again) by the inability of the young in general to forgive mistakes is a bizarre defence against truly acknowledging the hurt and betrayed feelings of this specific girl.
But you aren’t finished with young girls and their boundaries. And this one is branded a liar and hated.
Your insistence on your own lack of responsibility for all the pain you cause seems to be genuine. ‘I adored him and his girls’, you say of your brother and his DAUGHTERS, and yet you slept with one of them. You insert Hattie’s age in a possibly unconscious bid to prove you did nothing illegal. If she was 18 then it is true, you did nothing illegal. However, for a girl who has grown up knowing and being close to her uncle, to be seduced with alcohol at a young age must have been extremely disturbing. That you then persistently called her (Again fortnightly! Your relationships seem to occur at intervals) wrote her a drunken letter, instead of getting help for your apparent alcoholism and predatory sexual behaviour around young girls is also striking. That you claim she is lying about your trying rape her, the evidence in your mind being her only bringing it up after six months is, frankly, frightening.
You seem unable to understand that the rest of the world perceives your behaviour as unacceptable. You blame your family’s lack of understanding of your sexual behaviour for your depression and alcoholism instead of seeing that you have very serious problems to address.
You say your mother brought you up to forgive people their mistakes. Are you suggesting that you trawled for other women on the internet and had sex with your very young niece by mistake? Do you honestly believe you’re just an old fashioned guy with high Christian standards?
On one level perhaps you do. On another level you wrote to a newspaper columnist asking for help and advice. This suggests that you do know how serious the problem is. And perhaps you also know that the problem is not the inability of others to forgive you.
I wonder if your inability to perceive the boundaries of sexual behaviour is something you were brought up with? I wonder if your feeling of being punished and isolated when you don’t really understand what you did wrong is familiar to you from childhood? Were you unconsciously punishing a favoured brother by sleeping with his daughter? Were you always in the wrong and he always in the right when you were little? Was there even some sexual abuse in your childhood home or, perhaps more likely, sexual behaviour that bordered on abuse but was presented as normal? Perhaps leaving your emails available for a child to read was an unconscious punishment for her initially rejecting you? Did you want her, on some level, to know that she wasn’t special, that she and her mum weren’t special to you? And now you are meeting her mum behind her back – another punishment.
Young girls are a problem area for you to say the least. Your mind is a frightening and boundaryless world. Is there a younger sister in your family, I wonder? The dynamic of the way you think is hard to grasp at.
Another thing I wonder is where your wife fits in. You live with her but are not in a relationship with her. Does this make her a mother figure? Are you really punishing mum with all your secret betrayals?
It’s honestly very difficult to think about what you’re up to because you present as so baffled yourself as to the behaviour of others at the same time as cataloguing some deeply disturbing behaviour of your own, apparently without shame.
I think there is a level on which you are ashamed and confused by your thoughts and feelings but you are hoping that the columnist you wrote to will say you are just an ordinary guy who’s made a couple of mistakes and that the world is mad and over-reacting.
I’m sure she didn’t.
ps. It’s amazing that your inability to remember what you wrote in the letter allows you to assume it was innocuous or that the abused girl’s reaction was inappropriate. Your denial is extreme.
pps. Another thing that gets batted away is your mother’s death. You mention it as an aside but it was perhaps a catastrophic event for you or, at least, your brother.
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