Thursday 19 April 2018

Dear Mary: New man wants weekend away, but I don't want to have sex with him

Illustration: Tom halliday
Illustration: Tom halliday

Mary O'Connor

I have been widowed for 10 years having had a very happy marriage with children and now I also have grandchildren. I still miss my husband and would love to have grown old with him, but it was not to be.

I keep myself busy, have lots of interests and over the years I have become used to doing things on my own. A few months ago a man who shares one of my hobbies asked me to have dinner with him and I did. We got on very well and have had more dates over the past weeks. He is around the same age as I am and separated, on the way to being divorced. He has mentioned that he was very hurt by the whole experience of getting separated as it was his wife who left him.

I invited him to a function as well so that he wasn't always having to do the asking. I enjoy his company enormously but I'm not sure whether I just like the company or whether I actually fancy him. This sounds awful I'm sure, but my husband was a really tall handsome man and this man is none of these things. He certainly isn't a looker and he is carrying a lot of weight. But he makes me laugh and I am really enjoying getting phone calls and going on dates once again. He has mentioned going away for a weekend and I have to be honest that the thought of sharing a room with him is a bit of a barrier. I can't see myself having sex with him and I'm sure that's what he probably has in mind. What should I do? Should I stop seeing him altogether because I might be seen to be leading him on? This is the first time I have even dated since my husband died.

Mary replies: There is no need for you to stop seeing him - you are enjoying yourself and I'm sure he is also, and it was a nice touch that you invited him out so that he is not having to make all the running.

I appreciate that you are worried about things getting physical, but there is really no necessity to rush things. Just because a lot of people nowadays seem to be having sex very early on in a relationship - or sometimes not even being in a relationship but having sex anyway - does not mean that you have to have sex if you go away together. He may well be equally anxious about having sex, so don't assume that he is all on for it. He may have body issues, he may worry about pleasing you, there may be all sorts of things going on in his mind. He is also no doubt recovering from his marriage not working out as he had hoped, and so you will have to be very sensitive when talking to him. So when he brings up the subject again of a weekend away together, you can say that you would really like to go but that you are not ready yet to share a room. You will have to gauge by his response what he actually had intended. Be sure to emphasise that it is nothing to do with him, it is the fact that you are not ready to move forward just yet.

Then relax and enjoy your time together. It may not lead to anything or it may have a future. But stop worrying about what might happen - it probably never will.

My parents were right, and now I realise I made a big mistake in getting married

I think I've made a terrible mistake and I don't know what to do about it. I was going out with my husband for about six months and when he asked me to marry him I was over the moon. My parents and my siblings, on the other hand, thought it was a really bad idea as they didn't like him and didn't believe the things that he said about his life and family. I don't want to go into too many details, but they were right, and now one year after getting married I am desperate to get out of it. My relationship with my parents was never the best - I was a bit of a rebel. So I don't want to admit to them that they were right and I was wrong. But at the same time I don't want to stay in the marriage which is making me deeply unhappy and where at times I feel a threat of physical violence. He hasn't touched me, but he has come fairly close to it on a couple of occasions. 

My parents spent a lot of money on the wedding, which they really couldn't afford, but they wanted to do the right thing. We had a big church wedding and reception with no expense spared. What a waste that all was now when I look back at it. I am even beginning to wonder if I married him mainly because they said I shouldn't. Please tell me what I should do - I am miserable and have lost more than a stone in weight since the wedding.

Thankfully, we have no children, although that is because I stayed on the Pill unknown to him - he wants a family and the sooner the better.

Mary replies: I am really sorry that things have turned out this way for you, and I am sure you are grateful that there are no children to be taken into consideration. Nobody gets married expecting that it will not work out, and so there is always a sense of shock when the realisation dawns that the marriage is doomed.

This is a heavy load for you to be carrying all on your own, and I urge you to go to your parents and let them know, particularly as you feel physically threatened. There are no rights and wrongs and nobody is going to gloat and say 'I told you so' - there is just the fact that you made a mistake in choosing a life partner. Your parents will feel no joy in being proven to be correct in their concerns about your husband, and I'm sure they will be very understanding if you go to them for advice and admit that things have turned out badly for you. They are probably already concerned at your loss of weight and may well suspect the reason.

Now would be a good time to start building a better relationship with your parents. Part of the 'rebel' phase that a lot of people go through is necessary in order to break away from the parents and establish oneself as an adult. Don't forget they may well have gone through this themselves when they were young. You will have to be prepared to tell them everything that has gone on between yourself and your husband, as they will need all the facts in order to be able to advise you how to proceed from here. Your safety is paramount, and it may be that they suggest you move back home for a period of time. It would also be advisable to talk to your family solicitor if you have one.

You will also have to be aware that your husband may not want the marriage to end and he may wish to have couple counselling. This is usually the first thing that people try when a marriage is in danger of breaking down; you have only been married for such a short period of time so it is something that you should consider. I realise that you may not wish to have counselling in which case it would be advisable to talk to your family solicitor regarding your options.

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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