Dear Neil: I recently learned that my husband had an affair during the six years we were engaged and living together. This affair only ended when I discovered it. During this time (all) our friends, co-workers, bosses (we were employed at the same location), and his family knew about it and covered for him. She went with him to two family weddings out of state that I was unable to attend, and friends provided alibis and places where they would meet.
This has become a major problem in our attempts to put our marriage back together. He says they had no obligation to say anything to me. I want nothing more to do with these people. I am told that I am being unreasonable. I could really use a professional opinion.
Frustrated in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Dear Frustrated: The answer to this question depends on what kind of relationship you want with these friends, co-workers, and family members in the future. If you want a remote, distant, polite non-relationship with these people, you needn’t do anything, because that’s what you are naturally likely to have with them. We don’t have trusting relationships with people who knowingly rupture trust with us.
If you want anything resembling a close relationship with them, you’re going to have to openly address what happened and how you feel about their deceptive and disloyal behavior. These conversations would be more effective if they occurred with each person privately, with or without your husband present, and they should stay focused upon that individual’s behavior, and how it made you feel.
Then, and only then, might the two of you began the repair work necessary to have a trusting, positive relationship in the future.
Dear Neil: We have been married forty five years this November and have five children and one adopted grandson. Twelve years ago, I had breast cancer. I was fifty two. My husband has rejected me on (a sexually) intimate basis ever since. It was difficult enough to cope with a mastectomy, (as well as) a husband who has held back talking about anything personal, no hugs and kisses, (and) no sex.
He told me that we couldn’t have sex anymore and I believed him, thinking perhaps it was because of my scar. Four years later, he told me he lied and had been masturbating for twenty five years, thinking of a past neighbor, who had large breasts with large nipples. He said he never had sex with her, and does not want a divorce.
I have sought out doctors, therapists and marriage counselors, but he drops them all. If I tell him how unhappy or sad I am, he just keeps silent. What do you advise?
Confused in Ontario Canada
Dear Confused: Maybe your husband doesn’t want a divorce but he doesn’t want an intimate relationship with you either. I personally have a hard time believing what he has said to you, and suspect that he has been involved in a life long pattern of extreme insensitivity, deception, avoidance of closeness, emotional guardedness, and possible infidelity.
This is a quality of life question. How okay are with the marriage the way it is? Would you be better off with him or without him? He is not going to change, unless he is ultra-motivated to, and I don’t hear any evidence that he is.
You might tell him how all this makes you feel, and what you would need in order to feel desired, validated, cared about and loved in the relationship with him. But I wouldn’t hold my breath, if I were you.