Advice From the Trenches

Advice from the Trenches: One reader gets the shock of her life

Dear C and Dr. B;

I got the shock of my life when I was sorting through some CDs and found one with text files I didn’t recognize. They looked like scripts, but one of the characters had my name, so I started to read and discovered these were “conversations” from an interactive cyber sex site. My character described herself to her online prospect with my physical attributes, even clothes I recognized as mine. I went cold when it hit me – these were my husband’s files. He was going online, pretending to be me, and having sex with men. What the hell??!!!

When I confronted him, he tried to lie. Then he said it was just a curiosity thing and promised to never do it again. But when I checked the log dates and times on the files, I discovered that when he was “staying late at the office” over and over, in reality he’d been doing cybersex all evening. When he was going to meet me at a party, but called with “a flat,” and when he “forgot” to pick my brother up at the airport, he was online. He tried lying about all it, until I showed him the dates, and he couldn’t pretend anymore. He has promised to go to therapy, but he’ll probably just lie there, too. I feel like everything in my life is a lie and I don’t know what to trust. Has this happened to anyone you know? I know many people who were cheated on, but this is too much.

Charades ‘R Us

Dr. B says: 

First off, your husband needs to get therapy. Secondly, you need to get a lawyer. These situations are far more common than you would think. They are usually concealed because they oppose our mutually agreed upon cultural norm of rules and behaviors, along with the religious mythology that is developed to support them. For example: “God wants people to get married, but only approves unions between a man and a woman.” These rules are made up to suit a specific prevailing culture and its current rulers, but once they become law, they create an inflexible reality that people hold as truth. The problem is that human nature is diverse, and a cultural truth never fits everyone. So, when a cultural belief is out of sync with an individual’s nature, that person’s needs are labeled “deviant” and they are compelled to hide it. There are more resources devoted to serving diverse sexual needs than anything else on this planet. The internet is overrun with porn, fetishes and sex clubs catering to those parts of human nature that are out of sync with our culturally accepted truths. 

Your personal reality of a traditional marriage has ended and you will probably experience the same stages of grief that come with actual death – denial, anger, bargaining, depression…then, possibly, acceptance. You need a lawyer to deal with the very real socioeconomic issues that may arise from it, and it would be helpful to seek counseling during the grief process. 

C says: I feel your pain, Charades. But even the most deeply hidden secrets rarely develop without many clues along the way. Our cultural ideal in marriage is one of trust and faith, but in reality, this can be emotional suicide. Unless you pay more attention to your own life, you may never be able to trust in anything again. Best advice I ever heard: “If you want to know who a person is, don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.” If you had watched, you may have realized that the words coming out of your husband’s mouth did not match anything he did. When a secret like this is revealed, it is easy to feel that you are the only wronged party, but in a partnership, both parties are responsible for keeping lines of communication open. 

I doubt very much if your husband will change. The question is whether your marriage can survive the truth you have discovered. But think about this – your husband may not fit the cultural norm, but it does seem that he doesn’t want to lose you. He took you with him on every one of his online excursions. Consider that as well as your own hurt and betrayal. If you decide to save your marriage, you have to look at your own truth, too. Something in this man has suited your own needs all along, or the secret would have not been such a surprise. Once the shock wears off, you may realize that you don’t want to lose him either. Ever see the 1953 Ed Wood movie, Glen or Glenda? Easily one of the worst films ever made, but groundbreaking for its time: when a cross-dressing man reveals his fetish to his fiancee, she decides to accept him for what he is and stay in the relationship. Honestly, there are worse habits a spouse could have. I suggest couples counseling for both of you.