I am seeking your advice on my 23-year relationship. I met my husband at 17 while living in an abusive home. I escaped to college out of town and one year before I graduated, he proposed marriage and I accepted.
It was two months before the wedding that I asked God to reveal any secrets to me, and He did. I started looking back at our earlier days when I would catch him with love bites, the weekends that he would dress up to go "have a drink" with his brethren, and he even had a baby with another woman. At 20, I did not want to seem immature, and accepted his explanation that it was a mistake and was guided into making it work by our counsellor. He was my first man, my first love, my saviour from the abusive life.
He had multiple affairs and even another child with a 16-year-old girl. I tried to break it off again and fell into a cycle after being counselled by a church member.
After three children I felt stuck. Then I bought a house, which he refused to contribute to. His insecurities increased. His pursuit of women, though more discreet, continues. He lies about money — he is always broke then he makes large cash purchases.
He told me that he stopped the womanising, but I noticed that he is still flirting. I really want to leave; have tried several times, but the guilt of kicking out my children's father, the fear of being alone... sigh. But I am already alone. Social media puts him to bed and wakes him up, and he likes being by himself, except for the once or twice a week "fellowship" with me. Those nights he smiles and makes conversation and touches me. But sometimes we don't kiss or touch each other for weeks, probably months, but in his mind we have great sex. But sex without love in a marriage is a recipe for depression and infidelity.
I have looked outside once in recent times, but hide and seek is not my style and it contradicts my personal values.
We tried counselling. This was when I learned how insecure he was about me owning our house. He knows how to charm people into believing he is Mr Responsible who takes good care of his family, but there is no respect for me, or affection.
How do I become unstuck?
I certainly hear the desperation in your letter. Again, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Somehow I think you knew what he was from early on. You've said that he was your saviour from the abusive life, so maybe you were excusing him for this reason.
However, marriage is not to be entered into because you are uncomfortable elsewhere. Yes, you did say you loved each other at the time, so you weren't simply escaping the abusive situation. Yet something obviously went awry somewhere. You realised before getting married that he was not being honest or faithful. You really should have slammed on the brakes from then and there. If the behaviour is easily excused then the behaviour is silently encouraged. Take note!
His having a child with a teenager should really have ended things. I can only wonder what that church member might have said to you in order for you to think the relationship could proceed seamlessly. I pause here to beseech church members and church leaders, if you're genuinely trying to help someone, oftentimes simply directing the hurting person to a trained, experienced individual will be best. You can do serious damage to people's lives when you actually think you're helping them.
Where there is infidelity you're at a constant health risk. It is good that you sought counselling, but it is sad whom you sought it from. The truth is there should have been some line drawn in the sand and ultimatums given to your husband a long time ago.
He is operating on grace: You should be prepared to end this relationship. Give him a firm ultimatum, and if he can't stick to it, move on. You've given him abundant chances already. He certainly may be financially drained with so many children to take care of, while maintaining his habits. You cannot be afraid to be on your own. There are worse things than being on your own.
Any guilt of kicking out must give way to maturity. There's not much more to be said here. Engage your faith, shun fear, and be ready to stand up for what is right.
I pray for deep and complete healing for you, and that the rest of your life will be the best of your life.
Get on The Counsellor's Couch with Rev Christopher Brodber who is a counsellor and minister of religion. E-mail questions to email@example.com.
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