“I feel trapped in a corner with no way out. I don’t know if I want a way out, but I am totally heartbroken and lost. I met my present husband 11 years ago (I cheated on my previous husband of 20 years with him) and he was the love that I never knew existed. He worshipped me, loved me, was so attentive, caring and beautiful on every level, and I was absolutely head over heels in love and still am – I just want to make it right again.
“He moved to be near me so I could be close to my elderly parents and, after my dad died, we moved my mum in with us. I found it hard so he must have struggled; I tried to stretch myself in all directions and didn’t knowingly love him any less or want him any less, but that is how he felt.
“We run a successful company together, but he works away three nights a week to source stock. When his mum died five years ago, some traumatic childhood memories started to come back to him of abuse, including being raped by his father. All this pain is beyond understanding and I can’t imagine what he is going through. The doctor referred him for counselling, which is where I see things going wrong. He used to share everything with me but, when counselling started, he stopped having a physical relationship with me.
“He said he even felt it hard to cuddle due to all the memories coming back, so I accepted this, but it has now been two years since we made love and it breaks my heart. Then I found he’d been posting on dating sites, although he denied it and said it was someone trying to get revenge on him about the business.
“Up ’til then, I wouldn’t have dreamt he would cheat on me, but then I found a note on his iPad which implied he’d been having online sex with someone, so now I can’t sleep and I am totally possessed.
“I love this man, who has had so many terrible things happen to him. I know he felt totally put out by my mother and rejected by me, even though that wasn’t my intention at all. We have a lovely home together and a business, and it feels like karma has come to get me for what I did to my first husband. How can I get things back to where they were and resurrect this marriage?”
“First of all, please forgive me for heavily editing down your email; I hope I have retained the sense of what you’ve tried to tell me but there simply isn’t space for everything you’ve said.
“All marriages go through change, and levels of intimacy will vary from time to time. However, what is happening here doesn’t sound like a normal change in behaviour at all. Clearly, the loss of his mother and the counselling he is undergoing has stirred up some very strong feelings in your husband. You say your mother moving in was the beginning of this change, but perhaps it wasn’t a case of him feeling excluded, so much as watching you share your affection with someone else. He clearly didn’t have the same loving relationship with his parents as you had with yours.
“What he has gone through must have had a traumatic effect on him, as you’ve realised. But I don’t know – and neither can you – whether these ‘affairs’ are a need for validation in some way. Is he hoping to prove he is loveable? We don’t even really know if these are real affairs or – as you intimated – he might even be paying for a service of some kind.
“Whilst he is having counselling – which is a good thing and definitely important – it is counselling focused on his past life and how he is dealing with it. It is not counselling about your marriage, which I think is probably also needed if you are going to get your relationship back on track. Relate (relate.org.uk) – as I’m sure you’ve read in this column many times before – is the organisation to contact for help.
“Even if you can’t persuade him to attend with you, it would, I think, be helpful for you to talk things through with them. You may think that starting again isn’t an option for you, but if your husband is cheating on you and using his past as an excuse for this behaviour, it is something you should think about.
“As for karma, fate, call it what you will, I don’t believe you leaving your ex-husband has anything to do with this!”
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