‘My husband is sexting other women and I am devastated’

Tell Me About It: I love my husband but I feel rejected by him and I have no trust left in men

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

PROBLEM: We are a couple married for 18 years with three children.  I discovered recently that my husband has been sexting. I am devastated. We have not had sex for years and really and truly, I feel very rejected by him. The children know about the sexting as well, so he is banished to another room. 

He feels terrible. He says he is a very lazy man; he admits that he does nothing in the house and I do everything. He works away from home so he is not available from 7am to maybe 9pm and so I am alone a lot. When he is home he is so tired, he spends most of his time in the bed. But now I know he is not sleeping but sexting.

I am really worried that he loves one woman he is sexting, as I’ve seen some of the comments and they are appalling

There are many women who are sexting him, but one in particular I am worried about.  My own father was a serial philanderer, and I grew up with that. I really want to stay with my husband, as I love him, but I don’t feel loved by him at all. I am really worried that he loves one woman he is sexting, as I’ve seen some of the comments and they are appalling. He is showing absolutely no interest in me and he perhaps never really had any interest. He had a really difficult background: his father beat him within an inch of his life at times, and he suffers the scars of that. I have no trust in men of any description, and they are all the same as far as I can see and can’t be trusted. My husband is very hurt by this, as he has heard it over the years. He had previously done nothing wrong but now he says he can be blamed for doing something.

ADVICE: This is such a sad story, with many layers and aspects to it. There is a generational aspect in that secrecy, affairs and betrayal are the legacy in your family, whereas violence and abuse are part of the fabric of your husband’s story. Your children now live in a family where betrayal, rejection and hurt are ongoing but tolerated, and I wonder what the legacy of this will be for them.

It seems that in both your families, the children were involved in the complexities of the adults’ lives, and now your children are bearing the brunt of their parents’ decisions and problems. Can you both take an adult stance and address the situation? This will not be an easy or quick task, and it will require determination and courage from both of you, but it would seem that if you do not take some action, you are destined to live in ongoing mistrust.

Your first task is to challenge your own presumption that all men are to be mistrusted. This has been a factor in your relationship from the beginning and has no doubt played a huge part in the enormous distance that exists in your marriage. It would be ridiculous to suggest that you trust your husband to be a loyal man given the circumstances, but can you trust that he has the capacity to be intimate with you in a way that allows both of you to be vulnerable? Invite him to counselling with you, tell him that you want to fight for your marriage but you need help with this. If he does not seem open to this, or does not give any time to your request, then maybe you need to bring this situation to a head.

From what you say the betrayal is still at the sexting stage, which is suggestive of an immaturity, in that your husband is testing his attractiveness but not acting on this yet

That might result in separation, but your danger is that you have already lived in a family where betrayal is tolerated and therefore you have the capacity to withstand years of this unhappiness. It seems that your husband has also suffered, and he may be coming from a place where someone he loves can hurt and violate him and it seems that he gets energy from you knowing of his dalliances – weirdly, this is where the intimacy in your relationship exists. 

From what you say the betrayal is still at the sexting stage, which is suggestive of an immaturity, in that your husband is testing his attractiveness but not acting on this yet. Could this mean that he is trying to get you to object, fight for him and demand that you have a proper relationship?

You say he has shown no interest in you, and I wonder if he has an intimacy problem; this would correlate with his history of abuse from someone very close to him. Both of you are very vulnerable and angry, and this is an opportunity to engage with your relationship and your individual childhood stories. You will need help with this, and I suggest you look up familytherapyireland.com and seek professional help.

  • Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist. Email tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com for advice. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into
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