I’m 42, married with two boys (10 and 12) and to the outside world I have a great life. But my marriage has not been easy – my husband has huge insecurities and is threatened by my doing anything that doesn’t involve him.
So I’ve shelved plans to go back to study, to travel with my job, to go on weekends away with girlfriends (even hen nights) – all to try to ‘save’ our relationship. He’s always been very moralistic, with a black and white view of things, and is very judgmental of others who he perceives as not living up to these standards. Me in particular.
He makes a fuss if I want to see a girlfriend who’s divorced, saying we’ll be on a manhunt.
I’ve been accused of sleeping with almost every man I have ever worked with, his sisters’ partners and even some of his friends. Honestly, his accusations are completely without foundation. I always knew he had double standards, as he socialises with friends who he knows have cheated on their partners.
But last week, I discovered he’s been continually texting a girl he met about four years ago. He tried to deny it, but eventually admitted it after I looked at his phone bills online – but is still insisting he hasn’t had an affair and doesn’t consider he’s cheated because nothing physical ever happened.
I’m devastated and can’t help but torture myself with thoughts of what might have been in the messages – flirty talk? Sexy talk? He certainly sent her picture messages of himself at a time when I know he would have been in the bath. How can that not be an affair? He can’t offer me any explanation, only that it was exciting because he knew it was wrong, that he felt like a kid with a new toy, and that he was bored (although he insists he’s never been bored with me). Many times he’s stayed at his sister’s after a night out and texted this girl before me the following morning. Many times he’s texted her at 7am on a Sunday when he has obviously got out of bed on some pretext, sent the message, then got back into bed and no doubt had sex with me.
Once, he sent her 81 texts in one day! I’m so confused. He says he’s sorry, he loves me (and the boys) more than anything and will do what it takes to make things work. Obviously I’m so scared what splitting up might do to my kids, but I can’t take this out of context. Yes it’s a betrayal and he’s been stupid, but I’m starting to think we might get past this if it wasn’t for all he has put me through over the years. The hypocrisy is worse than what he’s done. It’s like my whole life with him has been a lie. Please can you offer any advice?
This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail
What’s interesting about this letter is that it lays everything out so clearly, as though you already know all the answers to your questions.
You begin, not with his text affair, but with the fact that your husband has controlled and bullied you throughout your marriage. You say you have spent many years denying yourself a life outside the confines of your marriage in order to ‘save’ it. The fact that it needed saving makes it immediately clear that it was seriously under threat. Your husband perceived that threat as outsiders trying to steal his wife or as an insider, you, threatening his authority and making a bid for freedom.
You make it clear that he is paranoid and insecure and that this has massively restricted your life.
Next you tell the story of his affair. At first it seems as though you are asking your reader to judge – is he having an affair? That suggests that you are hoping it might be possible that he is not having an affair, that the texts are the extent of it and that you can….what? Continue as you are? Would you want to? Clearly not. But then you stack up enough evidence (having taken the very paranoid/desperate step of checking his phone bills) that the reader has only one choice of answer. The reader judges – yes, he is having an affair. The way you relate ‘the evidence’ to his story sets him up as a ludicrous liar. You already know this and I suspect you wanted to the evidence to prove it. It did.
You say you are scared of splitting up – it would be very odd if you weren’t. But then you make the very clear point that it is not so much the text affair that upsets you – it is him. It is his personality and the way he has dominated your life. Finally, you can see a chink in his/your armour. The state of the marriage is no longer all your fault (for flirting or being potentially promiscuous in his eyes). It seems you have waited all this time for him to show himself as imperfect and now you are able to look at the marriage with open eyes. The bully is standing right in front of you.
You say very little about your own history, but you presumably chose a controlling emotional abuser because that kind of treatment was familiar to you. You perhaps have some confusion in your mind between control and cruelty and love. It is possible that you had a controlling father who made you feel that if you would only behave perfectly he might love you and you’d be safe. Or perhaps you were very neglected and initially felt safe for the first time with someone who seemed to care who you were with and where you were all the time. Perhaps you yourself see promiscuity and infidelity as a truly terrible thing and almost agreed with him about your potential for these behaviours. Of course, I’m guessing and you don’t say.
You worry your marriage has been a lie. He hasn’t been lying. He’s been bullying and controlling you quite openly. You have been lying to yourself about his behaviour, imagining that he wants to keep his marriage safe rather than understanding that he wants to wield complete power over you to your great detriment. Presumably his affair is designed to make him feel even more powerful – he has secrets from you and he may well be (is) trying to control this other woman too.
Advice? You don’t need any. You seem to have needed to lay it out in public in order to get it clear. It’s clear.
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