Relationship column: What is driving the pattern of my infidelity?
Dear Neil: I have been married to my second wife for almost 15 years. We have two boys, ages 10 and 8. I am 58 and my wife is 45. I was married to my first wife for 22 years, and have three children with her. I have been unfaithful to both my first and second wife ever since I have been married.
I have been seeing prostitutes for many years, sometimes twice a week. I left my first wife for one, but it didn’t work out. Recently, my wife caught me texting one such lady. I have denied having sex with her, but this is the second time she has caught me, and she is now saying she wants to leave me because she can no longer trust me.
I don’t seem to be able to help myself. Sometimes I struggle with the mundane-ness of married and family life, and I am not entirely confident that I love my wife. How do I stop myself from watching porn and straying? I am looking for love and a male ego boost, but I know I am going about it the wrong way. Please help me become a loving husband who adores his wife and children. They all deserve my love and dedication.
— Busted By My Wife in Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Busted: I’m unsure about whether your wife is past the point of no return, so I’m not sure whether there is anything you are going to be able to do to redeem yourself. Further, I’m unclear if you really want to stop the behavior you’ve described. You’re clearly getting enough from it that you’ve continued this behavior for decades, even when you’ve been warned by your wife to cease and desist.
I would like to suggest that you need to look at what you’re doing more carefully. I am guessing you have discovered that you are not going to find love with a prostitute. That’s not what prostitutes offer. So I assume it’s the male ego boost you referred to that is really driving this behavior. But obviously it’s not working for you, or you wouldn’t have to do it again and again. If you actually got that ego boost, then presumably it would last longer than a few days. But it clearly doesn’t last.
Identify Reasons for Infidelity
Figure out the very real reasons why you feel so empty and unfulfilled in your life, in your marriage and as a family man — and hold yourself accountable for repairing what’s wrong — rather than looking for your next fix. Otherwise, nothing is going to work, and you will never find happiness and fulfillment, inside or outside of marriage.
Here’s what you could do if you were attempting to repair your relationship with your wife. First, she is due an apology, along with a full and uncensored description of your behavior. (If you want her trust, then you can’t continue to deny everything you’ve been doing, because her B.S. detector is now on alert.) Second, prove to your wife that you’re going to actually change this behavior, by giving her the pass codes to all your electronic devices, including your phone, computer, social media networks, your daily calendar and offer her access to all of your phone and text contacts — so she could see everyone you communicate with, and she would be able to contact any of those people at any time in order to verify that you have been telling the truth.
If you can do all that, reliably with no deceptions or lies, then you may be able to slowly earn your wife’s trust back. If you won’t do what I’m suggesting, then you do not want to be a married family man.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 22nd year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website: http://www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.