Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas


I've been married for five years and our sex life has never been very good but I love my wife very much. However, last week she suddenly dropped a bombshell. She told me there is a man she really fancies, someone she met at her yoga class, and that she wants to have an affair with him. She says why don't I find someone as well and then she won't feel guilty. I've told her OK, because otherwise it's over, but what can I do? I don't want to lose her. But I don't like the idea of an open marriage. Yours sincerely, Brendan

Virginia says... Has it occurred to you that one of the reasons your wife doesn't enjoy sex with you is that she feels you're rather spineless and passive? Has it crossed your mind that one of the reasons your marriage isn't working is because you too willingly cave in and let yourself be trampled over like a doormat? Do you realise that when two people marry, they don't just meld into one amorphous whole, but become partners, and, although united, are still fundamentally separate people, each with their own self-respect?

Finally, have you thought how incredibly unflattering it must be for her to hear you say "fine" when she suggests having an affair? Your response shows one of two things. Either you care absolutely nothing for yourself, and are prepared to be trampled into the dust on a whim. Or it shows that you don't love her at all, and are, effectively, saying, "sleep with who you like. It doesn't matter to me."

Imagine how she'd feel if, before all this had happened, you'd said that you wanted to lead separate sexual lives. She'd have felt rejected, unloved, and second best. Do you want to be married to someone who knows that's how she's making you feel?

This suggestion of hers is telling you something and you're not hearing it. She's either saying: "I'm certain you don't really care about me – just an idea of me. I'm going to test you to the limit. Let's see how you react to this totally unacceptable idea and then I'll see how good our relationship really is." Or she's saying: "Sorry, Brendan, but our marriage over. I don't want to tell you directly, so I'm telling you indirectly."

And how are you supposed to react? Go off and have sexual relationships with women who might well fall for you and be hurt when you say that actually you want to stay married? Her behaviour will, if taken to its ultimate conclusion so you're having affairs outside the marriage, lead you to behaving like a monster to other women.

It's not too late to put your foot down. Say: "I simply cannot accept this insulting proposition. If you decide to go ahead with this, it's the end of our marriage. Either you give up this man and we go for counselling, or I'm off."

I know you don't want to do this. And it may well mean it's all over – in which case, better it's over now than later. But there's a very small chance that this move could actually save your marriage rather than end it.

Are you man or mouse?


Readers say...

Put your foot down

The whole point of marriage is to have a loving and caring relationship between two people and you not being open to the idea of an open marriage is completely understandable. You need to tell your wife you are angry and hurt and that you don't agree with what she is proposing. If you think this all stems from your sex life, maybe that is something that the pair of you need to talk about and spice up. Don't let her have an affair and don't let her make you have an affair when you're clearly just scared of losing her. By letting her sleep with another man you have effectively lost her already.

Name supplied, by email


Look after yourself

Let your wife decide and do what she wants – and you do what you want. You are not responsible for any guilt that she perceives about her own thoughts, words or actions – you are responsible for you! Your wife may get closer to this man – or she might realise what she has with you is worth building on – and you both then start appreciating each other and find a way to enjoy your sex life.

Vivienne Brown By email


Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, For the last three years, my husband has forgotten our wedding anniversary, though we've been married nine years. It is coming up again and I find I am dreading the disappointment of him forgetting again. I know it's silly, and everyone says it's clear he loves me, but it means so much to me, and when he forgets we always have a terrible row. He says I should remind him, but if I remind him, then there's no point... he should remember of his own accord. I don't know how you can help me, but does anyone else feel like I do? Yours sincerely, Nollie

What would you advise Nollie to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas, or go to independent. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

    Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

    Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

    Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices