Sunday 22 September 2019

Dear Mary: I was devastated to find he used a prostitute when I was pregnant

Photo: PA
Photo: PA
Illustration: Tom Halliday

I found out while I was pregnant with our third child that my husband had been to a prostitute. I was devastated. It went against everything I thought he was.

I thought we had similar values and belief systems, but this just floored me.

How could I not know him after all these years together.

He said it was only once, for oral sex.

Even writing this makes me sick to think of him in a cheap hotel room, handing over our hard-earned money.

To be clear, we didn't have an issue with sex, or so I thought. I actually thought I was the adventurous one, I would have initiated sex far more than he.

But we have small children and were tired a lot so it became less frequent. But that for me is no excuse.

We decided to stay together for the children - I don't want them to see us living separately.

However, it's been a year, and it's my first thought every morning and last going to sleep, and at times I feel like I hate him.

Will this ever change?

Can a relationship survive something like this, or are we delaying the inevitable?

Mary replies:  It must have been a huge shock when you found out about the prostitute especially as you would have been feeling particularly vulnerable at the time.

I have heard men say that they thought using a prostitute was preferable to having an affair because there was no emotional involvement and it was purely a financial transaction for sex.

That seems to me to be trying to justify what is in effect a betrayal - and spending both your money for his pleasure makes it even worse.

I believe that your relationship can indeed survive if you both want it to, and from what you say you both do, but some changes will have to be made.

I'm really sorry that you have left it so long to do something about this because it is eating away at you and won't go away all by itself.

The fact that you are thinking of it every day shows that it is still quite raw for you and as a result you are unable to move on.

Counselling is a very obvious answer although you will probably feel angry that you would have to go for counselling as you did nothing wrong.

But this event has caused a fracture in your relationship and you need help to repair it.

You say you hate him at times, which is quite understandable given how you have suffered, but you have to ask yourself if underneath it all you still love him in spite of what he did.

Because if you do still love him, and it is very likely that you do, then you will have to reach into yourself and work at trying to forgive him.

Your husband, who I feel sure very much regrets his actions, will no doubt have asked you to forgive him.

While you will never forget, it will be possible to forgive, and when that happens you will find that you are moving forward and thinking less and less of the past.

Time will also ease the pain. So seek help via counselling, try to find it in your heart to forgive him, and then draw a line in the sand and move forward.

I can't come to terms with my husband's behaviour

Q. I have been married for over 30 years. Very early in our marriage I discovered my husband masturbating while watching TV which he probably got used to as mostly I would be in bed before him. Sex was not a regular occurrence and remains the same. I returned home unexpectedly recently and discovered my husband viewing adult porn and masturbating. I am finding this difficult to cope with. I confronted him and he said I was imagining this and turned the television off immediately. I am trying to come to terms with this as I do not want to have to be coping with it all of the time. We otherwise have a happy marriage. We have four adult children. I have told him I am considering separating.

Mary replies: I am a little taken aback by your email because masturbation is very much a part of life for the vast majority of people. It may be that because of religious beliefs you feel it is a wrong thing to do, and that is your prerogative. However, your husband may not feel exactly as you do, and that is his choice, and as sex together is not a regular feature of your life together then perhaps he sees this is a viable option. He may also feel that it is preferable to going elsewhere for sex. You may say that he is being unfaithful to you in his mind because he is watching porn, but he may well be thinking about you and wishing you had a better and more fulfilling sex life together. You obviously feel really strongly about this given that you are considering separation. I feel this is an over-reaction and ask you to reconsider. Imagine telling your children the reason for your separation and ask yourself what their reactions would be. In all probability they also masturbate on occasion, and would be slow to judge their father.

There are lots of differing views on adult porn. Some people are totally disgusted by it. For others it is a way of life. Concern is often voiced about the sexualisation of women or indeed men. My particular concern is that it gives people - and especially impressionable young people - a totally unrealistic expectation of what actual sex should be like. In pornographic films all the bodies are absolutely perfect, there are never any sexual dysfunctions and everybody has the most amazing orgasms. In other words it is as far removed from reality as it can be! So this actually puts it in the realms of fantasy. Masturbation will never replace the joy of a sexual union between a loving couple and if you were to ask your husband he would probably agree. Are you prepared to have that conversation? It may help a lot if you are.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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