What did I get myself into?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I got married last year after knowing my husband for ten months. Since the marriage I’ve discovered a disturbing trend of concealment. Before we were married I had no idea that my husband was interested in bondage and discipline. About a month after we got married he pulled out all sorts of props–handcuffs, whips, etc. I’m not opposed to consensual sex that involves role play so I engaged in this type of sex and was fine with it.

But there have been other instances of concealment….. About a year ago, I found out that my husband was calling two women on his cell phone that he had at one time been involved with. He claimed that they were just friends, women he never saw but with whom he occasionally spoke. I told him that it bothered me alot and that I felt we shouldn’t continue any relationships with people with whom we’ve been sexually intimate. He said he didn’t want anything to get in the way of our marriage and if it bothered me he’d end the relationships. I found out two months later that he was still calling and receiving calls from the same two women.

When I confronted him he got very defensive. He refused to consider himself a “liar” because in his mind he hadn’t “done anything”. He said that he intended to cut off communication but when the women contacted him he didn’t know how to handle it. I was extremely upset and began talking about a separation. I felt that I couldn’t trust him. After many fights and much tension he told me that he had changed his cell phone number and had emailed both women that he needed to “work on his marriage”. I asked to read the emails because at this point I don’t believe anything he says. He refuses to open his emails to me. I’ve offered to give him the password to my email account but he refuses to do the same. He feels that I should trust him and that nothing he does will be enough.

During this time I found an old email that had been printed and saved in the bottom drawer of his desk. It was an email between himself and one of the women with whom he was exchanging cell phone calls. It’s obvious from the email that they met on the internet and that she was married at the time. He talks repeatedly about the need to cover their tracks. The final straw came several weeks before Thanksgiving when I found out that my husband had been going to “adult” websites.I found one of the images on the computer: A naked woman, bound and gagged, with an apple in her mouth, lying on a turkey platter “. I got so upset I didn’t come home that night and began to seriously consider divorce. When I confronted him he claimed it was just “erotic art”, a humorous image–something he forgot he had even looked at.

At this point he knows I’m considering divorce and is saying that we should go to counselling. But I think it’s just a desperate measure to keep me from leaving. I was in therapy for many years when I was younger and I know that it’s not a quick fix. My husband has never been in therapy even though he suffers from depression and has been on medication, (he no longer takes it because of the unpleasant side effects).

I’m beginning to feel that I married a man I didn’t know and that I should seriously consider a divorce……In addition to the issues of concealment, he gives me no financial support, except for medical insurance (he put me on his work plan), doesn’t feel comfortable talking about finances, never makes plans for the future, and is extremely slow to take any action. He’s worked the same job for almost 25 years–a job that he doesn’t like but which gives him benefits. I’ve asked repeatedly for communication but he claims it’s “difficult” for him to talk about certain things.

I feel like I’m clapping with one hand…….I feel very alone and the marriage is starting to effect my mental state. I’m normally a positive person with an optimistic attitude, even in the face of adversity. But since I got married I feel like I’m under a blanket. There are moments of contentment–I’ve created a warm home for us, and I brought a dog into the marriage which has given us many hours of joy. But the unhappiness and disappointment is beginning to overwhelm the good times.

A: It does take two to make a marriage. From your point of view, you’re talking to yourself about too many of the things that matter (finances, plans, the “rules” of your relationship). You’re also losing the most important ingredient for a lasting relationship — trust. You can’t continue in a relationship where you don’t trust. He can’t continue in a relationship where he feels that nothing he does is enough. Maybe a counselor can help you two find a way to bridge the gap and start working as a team. You loved this man enough to marry him. Maybe before just cutting your losses, you should see what he has to say in a counseling session. It’s just possible that the structure of counseling will help your husband learn how to communicate and how to show you all of himself. It may be too little too late but if you give counseling a try you will at least feel that you’ve given it your best effort.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Dec 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). What did I get myself into?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/12/13/what-did-i-get-myself-into/