Tuesday 22 August 2017

Dear Patricia: I can't enjoy family life after illicit sex session

Patricia Redlich

I'M not sure even why I'm writing this letter as I can already predict the answer. But I've so much torment going on in my head that I thought it might at least be therapeutic to put metaphorical pen to paper. This is going to come across as another selfish guy who can't be happy with his lot -- and that's what I am. But sometimes it's just not that simple.

Around a year ago, a friend my wife and I both socialise with started making passes at me. While I enjoyed the attention of this beautiful woman, I didn't think it would go any further. But it did. At a party towards the end of last summer we ended up alone and had sex. We were both very drunk, but we knew what we were doing. I then didn't see her for several weeks and she seemed rather embarrassed when we met again, which is understandable. She said it shouldn't have happened, and that we should both forget the whole incident. She reminded me that we both have children -- she's divorced with three kids -- and if my wife found out she might leave me and go back to the country she came from and I would then lose everything, including the child I love so much.

I know deep down that she is right, but I still feel devastated, like a teenager with a broken heart. She made all the approaches, and while I accept that I was a willing partner, I can't understand how she can just switch off.

My wife doesn't suspect a thing but is worried that I seem depressed. It's a horrible, horrible silent torment in my head, even though I know it's selfish. I should try to forget it all, but if I'm completely honest, I'd be with her again if given the chance. I simply can't get this woman out of my head and because we live in the same neighbourhood I see her around every couple of days. We always act like nothing had happened but I get butterflies as soon as I set eyes on her. I always felt attracted to her but since we had sex, I want to be with her more. And I'm not just talking about sex. I think I've fallen for her. I never feel like that about my wife, and I wish I did. I want to get these feelings about my wife, I really do.

I love my wife and, deep down, I don't really want to split up. A few years ago, we went through a bad patch and she talked about going back to her homeland and taking our daughter with her. I was devastated and felt betrayed, but we eventually worked it out and everything seemed to be going great until this happened.

My wife is a fantastic person and doesn't deserve this. Yes, I know this must seem so selfish. Yes, I know I need to concentrate on what I've got. But I'm finding it impossible to get this woman out of my head and I can't seem to enjoy family life anymore. I thought this pain would go over time but it's six months now and it hasn't eased at all. How can someone who has so much still be so unhappy? And still want more?

A: IT'S in the nature of things that we all want more. Striving is central to the human condition. So there is no problem in understanding that you desire, crave for, secretly pine about, another woman. The issue is solely one of what to do about it. To decide that, you need to understand the dynamics of that passion. And it is never, ever, just about sexual attraction. It is always also about the internal workings of your heart and mind.

I think it's fair to say that you haven't made up your mind about your marriage. Yes, you don't want to lose everything, particularly your child. That doesn't mean you've committed yourself to making the marriage work. Well, obviously you haven't. At the first opportunity handed to you, you were unfaithful. But even more important, you are being honest in admitting that you would do it again, and that it's the other woman who is maintaining her distance.

On top of that, you're burdening your relationship with depression borne of unrequited passion. So I am not being harsh when I suggest you revisit your statement about not wanting to lose what you have. At the very least, you are ambivalent. That, by the way, is not a crime. We're just trying to get clarity here.

There's a strong whiff of passivity coming off your letter. Your wife talked of leaving and you were devastated, an attractive woman chatted you up and you were flattered, she seduced you and you willingly went along with it, she explained the facts of life, withdrew, and you let her go. And now you can't help expressing your feelings in the form of depression and burdening your marriage. Helpless lack of control? You say you can't understand how this woman simply switched off. But she didn't. She took on the responsibility of making the decision that she didn't want to wreck your marriage. You are the one who switched off. You took her decision lying down.

Passivity is a form of self-deception. You pretend you're doing nothing. But in fact you are deciding, just as surely as if you walked out and closed the door behind you.

Actively and openly taking responsibility, on the other hand, may be scary. But it certainly brings clarity, thus lifting our dreadful sense of helplessness, and the accompanying depression.

Figure out what you want, and then take action, be it to stay or to go, and courageously take the consequences.

Sunday Indo Living

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