Relationship Advice

The Treadmill

man and woman in bed

Ten years ago I discovered a condom in my husband's jacket pocket. I assumed he was having an affair at work. On confronting him, he admitted to sex with prostitutes. He was devastated he had hurt me and, of course, I was never meant to find out.

I tried to understand it from his point of view. We didn't have sex often, mostly because he was cold toward me, bossy and critical. Just when I had enough and threatened to leave, he would soften and things would settle down for awhile. This cycle went on for years.

I went for counseling to explain both sides of the picture, as he made me feel it was my fault we weren't getting on. I must have been mad. Two years ago, shortly before my mother died of cancer, I discovered I had genital herpes, and my husband moved into the spare room.

I assumed he was having sex with prostitutes though he assured me he was faithful. I wanted to believe him, but I never really trusted him after the first disclosure. I should have left or made him leave, but I felt powerless. Three months later I looked up sex addiction on the Internet. After reading many articles I felt this was my husband's problem.

I wrote him a letter saying I would stand by him, if he admitted this was the problem. One evening he asked me to come into his room. He was pale and shivering. He disclosed 15 years of sex addiction--sex with men in parks and public toilets, prostitutes, and an affair.

I was living in a nightmare you can't wake up from. He made an appointment with a psychiatrist the day after he told me, and I went for more counseling. We went for couples counseling, he started seeing a psychologist, and now we are seeing the psychologist together.

We have read books on relationships, sex addiction, and forgiveness. Today we talk intimately, dance, and have good sex, but I don't think I am going to get over the betrayal. Though I have a great job, children who keep me busy, a grandchild, and good friends, I feel I am in limbo.

Our psychologist says we are both still healing. I am not sure why I wrote you. I suppose I would like to hear your opinion.


Vanessa, your psychologist used the word "healing." Is that a metaphor, or an accurate description of what is going on? About 20 years ago Wayne fractured his clavicle. It was a bad break, and the x-ray showed wide separation between two parts of bone. But in a few months the bone knitted together. Wayne never gives it a thought. Why? Because it healed.

What your psychologist calls healing sounds more like getting used to something distasteful. As a girl, you didn't dream your husband would be meeting men in public toilets for sex. That's like trying to get used to living in a prison: forget about the outside world, you're in here for life. Forget about your dreams and what you were raised to believe marriage is.

When we don't live from our authentic self, occasionally our true desires break through. Your desire was for an honest, faithful, loving husband. His desire is to be who he really is, when no one is looking.

When you prompted your husband to admit an addiction, you trapped yourself. If he has a disease, that makes you a bad person if you want to leave him.

Ask yourself if the latest round of counseling has simply gotten you more caught up in his story? To go to counseling with your husband is to let others alter your perceptions. You've read all the books and talked to the psychologists. Ten years ago you were trying to decide whether to stay or go. Ten years later you are still trying to decide.

Wayne & Tamara