I found out by accident that my husband is emotionally cheating on me with his ex. I know you are critical of the concept of emotional cheating, but I’m talking about long love letters explaining that he wishes he would have married her, how she is the best person in the world, how he will always love her, etc. He sends her gifts behind my back and communicates with her frequently and hides it from me. I broke down when I found out and confronted him, and he was apologetic at first. But he quickly started to accuse me of “just being jealous.” He continues to lie and hide. I can’t bring it up because he just gets angry, and I’ve resigned to participate in the charade that is my marriage. I’ve told him that I don’t have a problem with him being friends with her so long as he treats...
Want to read the rest? Subscribe now to get every question, every week, the complete Savage Love archives, special events, and much more!
...ing friends with her so long as he treats her like other friends. That would mean, for example, no longer professing his undying love for her. But he continues to do so, and I’ve come to realize that this will never change. She will always be his romantic fantasy, while I’m the idiot who’s more practical for everyday use. My self-esteem was crap before we met, after being abused by my kids’ alcoholic father, and I felt rehabilitated when my husband asked me to marry him. I felt chosen. Then I found out that I was being played for a fool. But I stayed with him, thus proving even more to the world how little I’m worth. Anyway, I don’t think I should leave. I want to preserve what is mostly a functioning family unit and not disrupt my kids’ lives again. But any advice on how I can live with myself for the decades to come before I’m finally allowed to just roll over and die?
Can’t Hack Another Really Aggravating Divorce Experience
I’m not so much critical of the concept of emotional cheating, CHARADE, as I am critical of concept creep where emotional cheating is concerned.
Basically, I think it’s foolish to tell people cheating is absolutely unforgiveable and then turn around and tell people that absolutely fucking everything — from looking at porn to sending an ex a brief happy birthday message via text — counts as cheating. So, while I don’t think a husband who has a work friend of the opposite sex or sometimes confides in someone about his marriage is guilty of having an emotional affair (all examples drawn from articles about emotional cheating), a husband who sends love letters to an ex… and tells that ex she’s the love of his life… that asshole is definitely having an emotional affair.
If I were you, CHARADE, I would leave. Your husband’s behavior exposes a streak of emotional cruelty so devoid of empathy that it’s hard to imagine it not manifesting in other ways, CHARADE, and you may not be able to live with (or want to expose your kids to) his shit over the long-term. But if you do decide to stay for the sake of your kids — which is something people do and something people insist no one should ever do — then you’ll need to radically adjust your expectations. You’ll have to accept your marriage for what it is now, i.e., a strictly limited partnership about raising kids, and then find a way to be at peace with that… which is a much heavier lift.
Passionately felt romantic love is a wonderful and often fleeting thing, CHARADE, and no one wants to discover that the person who said they loved them passionately — and promised to keep loving them passionately — is now (or always was) passionately in love with someone else. But a deep sense of security can grow between two people in a committed, long-term, companionate, low-conflict relationship, and that particular kind of intimacy can be its own consolation. Or its own consolation prize. That kind of intimacy is harder to achieve when one person in a relationship is a selfish and callous asshole… like the one you married…. but we go to marriage counseling with the husband we have, CHARADE, not the husband we might like or want to have.
If you can get past your hurt and anger — which, again, is going to be a very heavy lift — you aren’t required to participate in a charade. Your marriage is what it is, and you don’t have to pretend it’s something else. But if you can’t get past the hurt and anger, CHARADE, or if your husband finds new ways to make you miserable, don’t stay for your kids. (Have you ever spoken to an adult whose parents stayed in a high-conflict marriage for them? Or a marriage where one spouse was emotionally disassembled by the other, piece by piece, over a period of years? Most wish their parents had gotten a divorce.)
No more charades. Your goal is mutual respect, shared responsibilities, separate bedrooms, and all the personal happiness you can achieve for yourself in this marriage. The latter — happiness as opposed to resignation — may seem like the heaviest lift of all. To get there, CHARADE, you’ll have to do whatever it takes to untangle your sense of self-worth and self-esteem from feeling “chosen” by some man. Choose yourself. So, your husband has a pen-pal and he’s keeping her. What do you want? A dick-pal? Get one. Do you wanna spend more time with your girlfriends? Let them know. Do you wanna go back to school and get a degree or some professional training that would make it easier for you to leave your asshole husband after your kids are grown or sooner if you decide staying was a mistake? Do it.
You can choose yourself every single day, CHARADE, without neglecting your kids or being an asshole to your spouse about it. If you do decide to stay, do your kids the favor of letting them see their mother flourish.
I recently came out to my husband as asexual. I’m a 56-year-old female. He is 57. We have been in a monogamous relationship for 35 years. We both come from culturally traditional families. We married young and raised two boys who are now adults. Our oldest son came out to us as bisexual five years ago when he fell in love with a man. This was a catalyst for me to look into the nature of my sexuality. My husband’s response to my asexuality was, “Of course you are — we aren’t having sex anymore.” Before I came out to him, he urged me over and over to look into remedies for my situation so we could have intercourse. Menopause has made intercourse unbearably physically painful for me and he is not open to other forms of sexual intimacy. He doesn’t understand asexuality. After all, for many years we did have sex. I felt that it was part of my duty as a wife. In hindsight, I believe I was more interested in having children than having sex. I have a lot of guilt that I somehow “duped” him into a relationship. This was not my intention. Asexuality was not part of my vocabulary any more than bisexuality was. I have suffered for years with depression, thinking there was something wrong with me for not being interested in sex.
We love each other and we want to stay together. I know he has sexual needs that need to be satisfied. I have urged him to find other outlets. I’ve told him that I’m open to an open relationship. He said that he is afraid that if he had sex with anyone else that he would fall in love with them. He doesn’t want to do that because he loves only me. He still thinks there is some remedy and that I could find that would make it possible for us to still have sex. What do you advise?
Asexual Characteristic Explains Dilemma
Your letter — your question, your predicament, your marriage — demonstrates why the awareness-raising conversations we’ve been having about asexuality over the last decade-and-change are so important. If “asexual” had been a part of the conversation 40 years ago, ACED, you wouldn’t have spent the last 35 years wondering what was wrong with you. With “asexual” part of the conversation now, people who are asexual are likelier to know who they are, know there’s nothing wrong with them, and know they’re free to make different choices — more informed ones. Likewise, allosexuals who date asexuals are free to make informed choices of their own. (Allosexual is the opposite of asexual… and, yes, you could call allosexuals plain ol’ sexuals, but confusing new terms that have to be unpacked in parenthetical asides > simple and clear language that doesn’t have to be unpacked in parenthetical asides.)
But what do you do now, ACED? Nothing. You know who you are after all these years, you’ve explained who you are to your husband, and your husband has your permission to seek sex elsewhere, if he so chooses. If he needs to feel a deep emotional connection in order to experience sexual attraction — if your husband just realized he’s demisexual (sigh) — he can seek out women who are… I don’t know… unhappily married to emotionally obtuse and/or cruel men they don’t wanna leave for the sake of their kids and might be seeking some dick and affection elsewhere.
And you can tell your husband, from me, that romantic love isn’t a zero-sum game — loving someone else doesn’t mean your husband has to love you any less, or any differently, than he does right now.
Send your question right here on Savage.Love.
Comments on Charades
Write to Dan!
Got a relationship problem? A burning sex question? A burning… sensation?
Dan’s been giving advice and been tapping the best sex researchers, educators, and scientists for more than three decades!