‘I Just Want To Know, I Don’t Want Anything Held Back’

We became sexually involved immediately after we started dating as we had been friends and co-workers first. I was only 22, but it seemed loving and satisfying. A few months into our courtship he told me that he wanted our relationship (and eventual marriage) to be blessed, so we were to abstain from sex. Bummer. Oh well, I loved this man and wanted to support him as this was important to him.

On our wedding night, he wanted to have sex in the limousine on the way to the hotel (the limo was a gift from friends who owned it – their driver, too). I wouldn’t do it – I said I couldn’t in view of the driver and we were 20 minutes from a beautiful hotel room, and we had waited so long, etc. He was furious and stormed out of the car and up to the room. I followed alone. We spent the night in separate parts of the suite. He came to me at about 4 in the morning and apologized.

We had a brunch to go to with family before we left on our honeymoon, so, although I was hurt and bewildered, I put on a good face and chalked up the night before to the year of abstinence, nerves, whatever. The first few days were disappointing. I wanted to make love! He could kind of take it or leave it. The last 2 days of our honeymoon was a two night river-rafting trip with 4 other couples and a guide. I didn’t put my birth control in my bag because we were camping under the stars with strangers. No need, right? Of course this was when he wanted sex. I didn’t want a replay of our wedding night in front of these people so I just muffled us as best I could. Naturally, I got pregnant.

We are in the restaurant business and were crazy busy with the business and we had two more babies before our 4th anniversary. My pregnancies probably masked what I might have deduced if I were more available for sex those first few years. I was too busy to really notice that I always initiated. One night, while I was very pregnant with our third child (we worked in different locations that night) I got home significantly earlier than he did. I waited up for him and asked him what had happened. He said that this one server had gotten drunk, so he drove her home and she got silly and threw his keys out the window and he had to fight her off, etc. She was kind of a loose cannon and it made sense to me, so I let it go. Sort of.

Over the next several years, we moved three times, opened a couple of restaurants, and navigated our family through the elementary, middle, and high school years. Our sex life was completely frustrating to me as I felt that my husband had no apparent drive. I was too proud most of the time to initiate, but if I had a couple of glasses of wine, I could push through my pride and force the issue.

I looked at his family of origin and thought that there was perhaps a bit of shame associated with sexuality and thought maybe that was the cause. When I brought it up, he brushed it aside. I resorted to buying a hot negligee and trying to distract him from a ballgame to which he responded with fury. I retreated to the bathroom to toss the new negligee in the very small trash in the toilet room. I left it there and he took it out with the rest of the trash and never made mention.

I was desperate and depressed and made an appointment with a counselor. I cried through the whole session and all the way home. I actually felt that it was cathartic and felt some release and relief. It wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me that he never spoke. He simply sat there like a kid sent to the principal’s office – completely uncomfortable and uncommunicative. We continued like this for years.

I work in a restaurant/bar atmosphere and have received my share of attention over the years, but I love my husband and always told my girls that I would never return the admiring glances of any man because I would never want some guy to look at their Dad and think “I caught the attention of your wife”. Hilarious. We fought a lot, but we had such good times together and were so connected and close in so many ways, so I decided that his lack of sexual interest was just my cross to bear.

I turned 50 and took stock. Our youngest graduated from college and I decided that it was time to shake it down. I approached him and told him we needed to talk about “us”. He was reluctant but we had a long conversation. I felt like I opened communication, finally, but it was completely unsatisfying and confusing. I prayed and prayed for clarity. I was sinking into depression.

A couple of weeks later, we were home alone and I was preparing a nice dinner when I was compelled to ask him what really happened 22 years earlier when he drove that server home. I told him that I had always been pretty sure that he must have kissed her and demanded that he admit it so that I could put it to bed. He became silent and went out to the backyard and sat down and stared ahead. I was chopping away and watching him and thought ”whoa…”

I eventually went out and sat in the next chair and asked him what was up. He asked if he could wait and unburden himself to a counselor and I said no, that he needed to talk to me. He then told me about being 10 or 12 years old and spending time with other boys at a friends home who was raised by a single dad that had pornography around and that the boys learned to masturbate to the images and that it became habit and graduated to other levels. He admitted that he had been going to massage parlors for decades.

I instinctively steeled myself to be calm so that he wouldn’t shut down and quietly asked him if he had had sex with that server and he said yes. That opened the doors to endless possibilities, so I went upstairs and sat down on our bed to process what he had told me.

He followed me and sat next to me. I said that I felt that it was impossible to believe that he had limited his exploits to that one person. He said that she had told him how attracted to him she was and it unleashed his crazed need for affirmation and he was out of control from that moment on. He then admitted to two others – our Realtor and another co-worker. At that moment my life and sense of who I am, who he is, and who we were just imploded. I got up and walked around the neighborhood late into the night like a crazy woman. He followed me in tears and asked me to please come back to the house. The following weeks are a blur of tears, depression, shock, and rage. It was as though I woke up and my husband of 26 years spoke Russian and it turned out that our whole life was a cover for some scheme.

I immersed myself in books and a support group. We found a counselor for him that we eventually both went to. Over the months that followed he would promise that there were no more surprises and that I knew everything, but bit by bit admitted to more. I learned more myself and discovered his habit of minimizing. It turns out, so far, that he had sex with a dozen of our employees and customers including friends of mine and my very best friend. He decided about ten years ago that these were too risky and confined himself mostly to massage parlors.

Part of what hurts so much is that over the years I repeatedly told him that I felt unloved and undesired by him and that I was desperate to fix it. He says that the whole Madonna-Whore syndrome was in play. Sex had to be dirty and illicit. After much therapy he says now that he is a classic narcissist and that his wants/needs/desires/ always trumped anything and anyone else including me, his children and God.

Another incredibly painful aspect is his complicity with people I knew to betray me. Following their affair, I unwittingly invited my “best friend” to come on a 2 day trip with us. We all shared a hotel room. I helped her plan her wedding, gave her a shower, etc. I continued friendships with some of these women after they left our employment. How disgusting. My head knows that he couldn’t stop these “friendships” without exposing his crimes, which he was sure would instantly end our marriage, but my heart can’t accept that my husband couldn’t protect me from that much, at least. It would have been so much less painful if strangers were involved. His ego wouldn’t have been served by prostitutes though. He needed flirtations that could escalate into sexual encounters that would affirm his desirability. So sad.

We have had hundreds of employees over the years and I shudder to think of how many know how duped I was. People talk. It’s funny because he says that these women would never have told anyone. Apparently he thinks that he only fooled around with principled whores! Being that delusional, he was probably reckless enough that it was obvious to observers. Ugh.

Our finances are really tough right now and cannot afford two households. I have stayed with my mother and friends off and on over the past year when there has been opportunity. He is really committed to his recovery and meetings and expresses tearful acknowledgments of how much he has hurt me every day. I am grateful that he feels my pain so acutely, but if I am even to consider beginning a new relationship with him (the old one is finished – it was a sham) I need to know how this all unfolded. I don’t want sexual details, but I want to know everyone and anyone that I need to 86 from my life even those whom he has had inappropriate conversations with. I don’t want anything held back at this point. He remembers insignificant events of his childhood or sports, or whatever, but cannot remember how any of his innocent employer/employee or customer relationships escalated to trips to hotel rooms, etc. I can’t accept that.